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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Zandra Rhodes, Legendary International Fashion Designer and Icon, Commander of the British Empire Our Coverage Sponsored by Hallak Cleaners the Couture Cleaner

Zandra Rhodes

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Zandra Rhodes was born in Chatham, Kent, UK in 1940 and introduced to the world of fashion by her mother, a fitter for the Paris fashion House of Worth and later a lecturer at Medway College of Art, UK. Zandra studied at Medway College and then at The Royal College of Art in London. Her major area of study was printed textile design.

Her early textile designs were considered too outrageous by the traditional British manufacturers so she decided to make dresses from her own fabrics and pioneered the very special use of printed textiles as an intrinsic part of the garments she created. In 1967 she opened her first shop: The Fulham Road Clothes Shop in London with Sylvia Ayton. In 1969 she set up on her own and took her collection to New York where it was featured in American Vogue, after which she started selling to Henri Bendel in NY. In the UK, Zandra was also given her own area in Fortnum and Mason, London. Zandra was Designer of the Year in 1972 and in 1974 was made Royal Designer for Industry. The rich, famous and fashionable wore her clothes. In 1975 she founded her own shop off Bond Street London.

Zandra’s own lifestyle is as dramatic, glamorous and extrovert as her designs. With her bright pink hair, theatrical make-up and art jewellery, she has stamped her identity on the international world of fashion. She was one of the new wave of British designers who put London at the forefront of the international fashion scene in the 1970’s. Her unique use of bold prints, fiercely feminine patterns and theatrical use of colour has given her garments a timeless quality that makes them unmistakably a Rhodes creation. In 1977 she pioneered a pink and black jersey collection with holes and beaded safety pins that earned her the name of “princess of punk”.

She has designed for clients as diverse as Diana, Princess of Wales, Jackie Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor and Freddie Mercury of the rock group ‘Queen’. She continues to clothe and design the rich and famous around the world from royalty to rock stars including: HRH Princess Michael of Kent, Debbie Harry, Bianca Jagger, Kylie Minogue, Anastasia, Paris Hilton, Joan Rivers and the late Isabella Blow.

Zandra’s dresses are the ultimate dress-up dress. Helen Mirren, star of “Calendar Girls,” “Madness of King George” and more recently “The Queen” wore a Zandra when she received her award from BAFTA in Beverly Hills and Sarah Jessica Parker dressed up in a Zandra in “Sex and the City”.  Her vintage pieces have long been collected by Tom Ford and Anna Sui and have been worn by Kelly Osborne, Ashley Olsen, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.

Zandra Rhodes collections are sold in the top stores and boutiques around the world but her work does not just stop with dresses and printed textiles. It also encompasses various exciting licences including jewellery, wrapping paper, a full range of china for Royal Doulton, and furs for Pologeorgis in New York. She has also collaborated with MAC to produce a limited edition make-up range.

In the last few years Zandra’s career has diversified into designing the sets and costumes for operas internationally. She first worked for the opera in 2001, when San Diego Opera invited her to do costumes for the Magic Flute. She was then asked to design both sets and costumes for Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers in 2004. This has already toured five cities in the USA including San Francisco and New York, Washington National Opera and L’Opera de Montreal.

Most recently, she worked with Houston Grand Opera on Egyptian-inspired designs for Verdi’s ‘Aida’, which opened at the English National Opera 2007 and was encored in 2008 again with the English National Opera. Since then, it has opened the San Francisco Opera season and this last October, 2013, played in Houston Grand Opera once again.

Zandra has also devoted much of her time to setting up the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, dedicated to showing the work of fashion and textile designers from the 1950’s onwards. It was officially opened in May 2003 by HRH Princess Michael of Kent. The museum is now part of Newham College of Further Education and it has been awarded the status of: National Skills Academy for Fashion, Textiles, and Jewellery.  Zandra Rhodes was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1997 in recognition of her contribution to fashion and textiles and additionally, has nine Honorary Doctorates. We are absolutely thrilled to present Zandra Rhodes as our latest Mover and Shaker. Peachy Deegan interviewed Zandra for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first fashion memory? 
Zandra Rhodes: 
Wonderful “Official” French magazines at home and the fabulous Balenciagia shovel hat! 

How do you define fashion and what does fashion mean to you? 
Fashion is the clothes we wear and the fact that the desired image is ever-changing. Always moving….always changing the goal posts! 

How does one become a pioneer in fashion? 
Always be true to yourself. never be afraid to dare, and don’t worry if people laugh.

We love your winning attitude and dedication to being an individual. What do you attribute this to? 
My mother and her work dedication. Always working. “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you” has always been a motto I have followed when trying to stick to my originality! 

How would you compare and contrast London and New York in terms of strengths in fashion when your career began and how would you assess those strengths have evolved or changed in each city? 
When my career began it was Carnaby Street and pop art. The world temporarily focused on London. Eugenia Shepherd flew to London specially to interview me for my prints for Foale & Tuffin! When I then flew to NYC in 1969 with my own dress collection (one week after Woodstock in 1969) Diana Vreeland organized for my clothes to be photographed on Natalie Wood and called Henri Bendel to tell them they must stock my things! Many exciting people came through London and stopped by my studio – Baby Jane Holzer, Marietta Tree, Peter Sellers and his new wife at the time, Swedish actress Britt Ekland. Since that time, New York has taken over and has gone from strength to strength in amazing marketing and huge conglomerates and is a world force. London is an idea nest! 

What has been your favorite show at The Met by the Costume Institute? 
The most exciting, and much of a shock, was Iris Apfel! It was an overwhelming surprise and I have since met her and adore her individuality. It is that quality that Diana Vreeland first started when 7th Avenue created the Met job for her. 

What people in fashion, both designers and otherwise, have been most influential to your career and why? 
Diana Vreeland. Marit Allen (Lieberson), then a young editress on UK Vogue. She took my work when I said I was going to America for the first time, to the head of English Vogue, where David Bailey then photographed it and gave me letters of introduction to Diana Vreeland. Diana immediately set up a photo session with Natalie Wood to feature my yellow felt coat and sent me to Henri Bendel. This store was the first to sell my things in the USA. She also called Mica Ertegan and Chessy Raynor who bought and wore my clothes. Norman Parkinson (the photographer) did many pictures of my work and always requested my clothes. It was Norman who did the picture of my dress on Princess Anne for her fairy-tale engagement which was on every front cover! 

Please tell us about your mother and her experiences at House of Worth; it must have been fascinating! 
My mother was very artistic and left wonderful fashion drawings. She ventured to Paris (probably in her mid 20’s) and entered the house of Worth and draped and created shapes and patterns. She worked live on the dress stand. She was an amazing woman – if she wanted to know something she wouldn’t admit it, she would go to the person in charge and say “can you show me how you want things done here in your company as my methods might not be exactly what you require”. She only returned to London because of the war. 

You are the first Dame we've ever interviewed and we are honored. What does this honor mean to you? 
I’m actually a Commander of the British Empire! “CBE”. (Dame is the next level up) 

What was Henri Bendel like in 1969? 
It was vibrant and amazing. Diana Vreeland called Geraldine Stutz, the only woman president in the USA, and sent me over with my collection. Then my yellow felt coat was the center of attention in the amazing 57th Street windows! Marietta Tree and Evangeline Bruce saw the windows and came to my little London studio. So did Lauren Bacall! 

Your hair is fantastic. Where do you get it done? 
Originally it was created together with Daniel and Leonard of London. Then John Frieda (now in New York), followed by Trevor Sorbie. Now I’m in San Diego and lucky enough to have Vicky Lavanty who is fab and trained by Vidal Sassoon. 

What are your memories of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and how should the world remember her? 
A fabulous chic and elegant woman. She and her sister, Princess Raziwell, wore my famous one-sided dress! 

What are your memories of Diana Princess of Wales and how should the world remember her? 
I think the world should remember her as a fairy princess! Whatever her faults, she was beautiful and inspirational. Her life was a fashion sacrifice, especially to the UK. 

Are you dressing anyone in particular during the upcoming award season? 
I recently dressed Ellen Burstyn, who received an Emmy this past season for the television series she stars in. She looked amazing in my evening jacket when she received her award! 

We are huge proponents of British television; do you watch it and if so what are your favorite shows? 
I do not watch much TV, but love the special series that BBC produce. I liked I Claudius and Downton Abbey. 

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence? 
First, my mother Beatrice. She was fabulous and exotic. Always exotic. Her mantra was Good, better, best, never let it rest till your good is better and your better, best! 

What are you proudest of and why? 
That I am an “original” textile designer who invented clothes which were totally shaped from the textile print itself.   
I make the two synonymous. Additionally, my “Conceptual Chic” (Punk) collection with its decorative holes and beaded safety pins! 

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
To have a Zandra Rhodes flagship store in both London and New York! 

What one word best describes you and why? 

What do you take your sense of identity from? 
My work 

What honors and awards have you received in your profession? 
1960 NDD National Diploma of design UK 
1963 DES RCA Designer of the Royal College of Art. UK 
1972 Designer of the Year, English Fashion Trade 
1974 Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) 
1977 Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) 
1978 Fellow of the Society of Industrial Arts (FSIA) 
1979 Best Costume Award for “Romeo and Juliet on Ice” – British Association of Film and Television 
1983 “Britain’s Designer” Chosen by Clothing and Export Council 
1985 Alpha Award for “Best Show of the Year” – Saks Fifth Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A. 
1986 “Woman of Distinction” Award – Northwood Institute, Dallas, Texas, U.S.A. 
1986 Honorary Doctor of Design – Council of National Academic Awards, UK 
1986 Doctorate, International College of Fine Arts, Honoris Causa (DFA), Miami, Florida, U.S.A. 
1987 Doctor of the Royal College of Arts (DRCA) Royal College of Arts London, UK 
1987 Doctor of Design (DD), Honoris Causa, Council for National Academic Awards, London, U.K. 
1990 Voted “Number One Textile Designer” in the U.K. by the Observer Magazine 
1991 Alpha Award (2nd time) for best “Show of the Year” – Saks Fifth Avenue, New Orleans, LA. 
1995 Hall of Fame Award awarded by the British Fashion Council for outstanding contribution to the British Fashion industry 
1992 Fellow of Kent Institute of Art and Design (FKIAD), U.K. 
1997 Golden Hanger Award awarded for Lifetime achievement from Fashion Careers of California College (FCC) San Diego 
1997 Commander of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II 
1998 Recognized as Leading Woman Entrepreneur of the World by the Star Group USA 
1998 Honor Award from the National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association Honor for Del Mar Terrace 
1999 Doctor of Letters – University of Westminster, London 
2000 Honorary Doctor of Letters – University of Westminster, London 
2001 Honorary Doctor of The London Institute (LCF) UK. 
2001 Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Academy College of Art & Design, San Francisco 
2001 February, ‘Pride in Medway’ Award from the City of Medway. 
2002 February, ‘Pride in Medway’ Award from the City of Medway (First Recipient) 
2002 May, Dr. of Humane Letters, Academy of Art College, San Francisco 
2003, July, Dr. of Fine Art London Institute 
2003 Living Legacy Award San Diego, Calif 
2003 Doctor of Letters – Kent Institute of Art and Design (KIAD) UK 
2007, July, Dr. of University of Northampton 

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? And London?
The Met in Manhattan and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. They both have the most fabulous exhibits. 

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? And London? 
I try to avoid shopping as I don’t want to be influenced by other designers. I want to stay true to my own designs and maintain my originality 

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
I would hire a muse! Position available! 

What is your favorite drink? 

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
Falling asleep! 

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? And London?
The Grenouille in Manhattan and The Wolsey in London. Both are to die for! 

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? And London? 
Holly Golightly! And Harry Potter.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
Anna Wintour. I admire how she does things and is Queen of Fashion! 

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? And London? 
A flagship store in each. I once had my fab off-Bond Street store and it represents a window to the world – an idea platform! Visible to the rest of the world. 

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? And London?
Once bicycling around Manhattan on a public holiday when streets were completely empty! Quite fabulous! London is beautiful to bicycle around on a lovely day as well. You can cycle through all of the “forbidden” places! 

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? And London? 
Late night at the Met. When it gets dark the flowers look even more fabulous. Same in London! Going to the V&A on a Friday night, wandering around the medieval galleries with wonderful old treasures talking to me! 

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why? 
I would have the electric combination of Diana Vreeland (when she was High Priestess of U.S. Vogue) and Larry Hagman, who died last year – a great friend. When they last had dinner with me in my house in London, Larry had just been “shot” in Dallas. Diana sat next to him and said “what do you do?” and he answered: “I play a bad man in a TV series, but you know my mother, Mary Martin!”. I would add Divri (Divine) who always stayed with me when he was in London 

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? And London? 
When my “Pearl Fishers” Opera by Bizet was shown at NYC Opera. In London it was the magical experience at the Coloseum, with the English National Opera, when I designed the sets and costumes for Aida. 

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
Apart from designing dress collections, fabric collections (Heals and Westminster Fabrics) and Operas (The Magic Flute, Pearl Fishers and Aida) I contribute to various charities in both London and San Diego where I split my time. I have helped with the Girl Scouts of San Diego, founded the Fashion and Textile Museum in London to give back to designers who have not received the recognition that perhaps they should have, have done design work for multiple charities and nonprofit organizations such as the University of California’s Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center, and have now put on two charity fashion shows for the American Heart Association to raise awareness of heart disease in women. 

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan? And London?
The ridiculous cost of living/housing in both and is not equal to the people living there 

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it? 
I find I’m too busy creating to read those kind of columns as much as I would love to; I met you at The Met which is frequently featured in Cultured Peachy. 

Have you tried The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not? 
No because I’m not in NY and not very web-savvy! 

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
That I love cooking and entertaining and my friends like my cooking! It’s also quick! They should also know my secret love of California wild flowers. I have been putting together a book of “California Flower Fairies”. I also love gardening. 

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers? 
I don’t have time for facebook and dislike this infringement on my private life, but I can be contacted through my website!

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