Ep. 37: Zandra Rhodes

Legendary British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes tells us how her early early textile designs were considered too extreme for the traditional purveyors, so she had to take manufacturing into her own hands. As a fashion designer, she pioneered the use of printed textiles as an intrinsic part of the garment’s composition. Now 50 years into her career, she attributes her extraordinary work ethic to her mother. Oh, and she has been known to frolic in the sea alongside Burt Bacharach.

Portrait by Gene Nocon

Portrait by Gene Nocon

What is your earliest memory?

Drawing colored chalk butterflies on an air raid shelter in my garden in the UK around 1943.

Zandra with her mother and their first car, age 10.

Zandra with her mother and their first car, age 10.

How do you feel about democratic design?

Several years ago, I collaborated with People Tree and loved it!  We used fabulous ethically grown cotton and had hand printing done on an ashram in Bangladesh.  I enjoyed this project as I was able to offer quality and affordability without compromising my designs.

Zandra in 1970 (with green hair) in her London Studio

Zandra in 1970 (with green hair) in her London Studio

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

Good better best. Never let it rest, 'til your good is better and your better best!

How do you record your ideas?

In my sketchbook. I keep everything. You never know when a sketch will reinspire you or come of use!!

Punk wedding dress in collection of Metropolitan Museum New York. Photographed by Clive Arrowsmith

Punk wedding dress in collection of Metropolitan Museum New York. Photographed by Clive Arrowsmith

What’s your current favorite tool or material to work with?

Colored pentels in my Japanese rice paper sketchbook. For designs, I paint them in poster paint on paper full scale.

Why is authenticity in design important?

Because I am selling originality.  A reason for people to choose Zandra Rhodes over and above another product is that it is original and like none other. This is why my talent and mind are important!

Favorite restaurant in your city?

Pamplemousse Grille in Solana Beach, CA

Ethereal white dress from the Archive Collection I, exclusively for matchesfashion.com.

Ethereal white dress from the Archive Collection I, exclusively for matchesfashion.com.

What might we find on your desk right now?

A multitude of different and unfinished pending projects - like lots of balls up in the air.  Research on my past work that people are now so interested in.  A museum exhibit being planned for South Coast Plaza.  Paperwork regarding a collection of Zandra Rhodes scarves to sell online.

Who do you look up to and why?

I look up to people who are original in what they do.  Thinking outside the box within field.

Showing medal at Buckingham Palace when made Dame.

Showing medal at Buckingham Palace when made Dame.

What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?

This varies from day to day!  Most recently, I enjoyed launching my Archive II Collection exclusively available at Matchesfashion.com at Port Elliot (even though it rained every day!). A wonderful music and fashion festival in Cornwall UK.

What are the last five songs you listened to?

The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Queen’s Barcelona (I did Freddie Mercury’s costumes!).

Photograph by Robyn Beeche, Pink Mane Portrait 1982.  Makeup and Hair by: Yvonne Gold

Photograph by Robyn Beeche, Pink Mane Portrait 1982.  Makeup and Hair by: Yvonne Gold


For more Zandra, visit zandrarhodes.com and follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


Special thanks to Chris Modl of Yore Studio for editing this episode.
Music in this episode courtesy of El Ten Eleven—hear more on Bandcamp.
Shoutout to Jenny Rask for designing the Clever logo.