Born: Zandra Lindsey Rhodes in Chatham, Kent, England, 19 September 1940. Education: Studied textile design, Medway College of Art, 1959-61, and Royal College of Art, 1961-64. Career: Established dressmaking firm with Sylvia Ayton, London, 1964, and textile design studio with Alexander McIntyre, 1965; partner/designer, Fulham Clothes Shop, 1967-68; freelance designer, 1968-75; director, Zandra Rhodes U.K. Ltd, and Zandra Rhodes Shops Ltd., from 1975; launched ready-to-wear collections, in Australia, 1979, and in Britain, 1984; also designed bed linens and household textiles; opened a studio in California for interior design and fine art, 1995; launched Zandra Rhodes fur collection for Pologeorgis, 1995; featured designer with Lady Thatcher for U.K. Utah British promotion in Salt Lake City, 1996; featured designer for Designing Women, Costa Mesa, with accompanying book signing, 1996; launched Zandra Rhodes II, hand-painted silk ready-to-wear collection made in Hong Kong, 1996; created bed linens for Grattons mail order catalogue in the U.K., 1996; launched Zandra by the Sea ready-to-wear collection, California, 1997; launched Zandra Rhodes eyewear collection with Lygo Merx, 1998; created exclusive collection for Liberty of London, 1998; active in the British Invasion at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York, 1998; conducted Riga-Latvia Show and headed Fashion Forum,
The Art of Zandra Rhodes, with Anne Knight, London, 1984; New York, 1985, 1994.
"A Life in the Day of Zandra Rhodes," with Anne Whitehouse, in the Sunday Times Magazine (London), 24 January 1982.
"My Country, Right or Wrong," in the Sunday Telegraph Magazine (London), 10 May 1987.
Santa Cruz Art Museum, Zandra Rhodes: A Retrospective with Artworks, Santa Cruz, CA, 1983.
Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, Couture: The Great Fashion Designers, London, 1985.
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Times, 12 January 2001.
Zandra Rhodes is an artist whose medium is printed textiles. Working in a calligraphic style uniquely her own, she designs airy prints from which she produces floating, romantic garments whose cut evolves from the logic and placement of the print itself. Rhodes has no imitators and her work is instantly recognizable.
In a field where novelty is prized, Rhodes' work over the years is remarkable for its consistency. Because the shapes of her garments are fanciful and fantastical, using volume to display the textile to its best advantage, her clothes do not date. Her references are timeless: T-shaped gowns of printed chiffon belted in satin; the full-pleated skirts and long gathered sleeves of Ukrainian festival dress; off-the-shoulder tabards finished with a fringe of dagging; children's smocking reinterpreted in silk jersey. Rhodes' clothes are extravagantly feminine, delicate, and mysterious—created, as one writer observed, for "contemporary Titanias."
Each collection of prints evolves as a thoughtful response to a personal vision. Drawing on traditional historic sources, on images from nature, from popular culture, and from her own past, Rhodes sketches an object over and over, entering into a dialogue with it as the sketches become increasingly abstract and a personal statement emerges. Only at that point are a series of these personal images combined until the right composition presents itself to be translated into the final screen print. The print determines how the garment will be cut. Rhodes was not trained as a draper or cutter, and she has not been bound by the concept of symmetry, conventional seam placement, or internal shaping. Many of her dresses are cut flat or with minimal shaping, sometimes incorporating floating panels that follow the undulations of the patterned textile. She favors large repeats on silk chiffon or silk net, and as the garment falls in on itself against the body, it creates mysterious shapes and soft, misty layers not easily known. Rhodes is without doubt one of the most gifted and original designers of the late 20th and early 21st century.
Rhodes began taking her artistry to much larger material. Pink and orange concrete walls, rotating exhibits, and lavish interiors are part of Rhodes' latest constructive endeavor for the fashion industry. She calls it the Fashion and Textile Museum, her lifelong dream. Located in Bermondsey on the South Bank of the River Thames near London Bridge, Rhodes is building the museum to exhibit local and international fashion and textile designers and to educate students of contemporary fashion and textile design. Rhodes planned to open the museum's doors in 2002.
In January 2001, Rhodes provided the San Diego Opera with her imaginative and brilliant style for the production of Mozart's The Magic Flute. She designed 127 costumes, which, according to Valli Herman-Cohen of the Los Angeles Times, included everything from a rhinoceros with mirrored mosaic paws to a fantastic Queen of the Night cloak. The extraordinary costumes were such a success for Rhodes that she also launched a Magic Flute -themed eveningwear collection.
Even with the success of her collections, Rhodes finds time to venture into other fashion and artistic territories such as furs, interior and exterior design, and even etched and cut-glass windows. Rhodes teamed up with artist David Humphries for her interior and exterior work; together they have fashioned a number of terrazzo designs such as the Global Plaza at Harbourside, Sydney, and the Del Mar House Terrazzo Project. Rhodes' unusual and exceptional designs are just as breathtaking today as they were when she began as a textile designer almost 40 years ago. Highly admired, Rhodes continues to be "the" designer for cutting-edge fashion in a variety of forms.
updated by Kimbally Medeiros