One of the biggest icons of British fashion, Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) and Dame of the British Empire, punk princess, Zandra Rhodes is founder of the Fashion and Textile Museum of London, organiser of the exhibition ‘T-shirt: Cult – Culture – Subversion’, which La Roca Village will host until 23 June 2019.
This year Dame Zandra Rhodes celebrates 50 years in the industry, five decades in which she has dressed personalities such as Lady Di and stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Cher, Diana Ross and Freddie Mercury. Eclectic and audacious, her designs reject conventionalism and, since 1969, anticipate trends and concepts (such as authenticity and individualism) that are now part of the global creative vocabulary.
The designer visits the Village after serving as godmother at the Graduate Fashion Week in London. Supporting and promoting emerging talent is a commitment shared by Zandra Rhodes and The Bicester Village Shopping Collection, as well as supporting the dialogue between culture and retail, two sectors that join forces to create unique experiences, such as at La Roca Village with the exhibition T-shirt: Cult – Culture – Subversion. “It is wonderful to have been able to bring to Barcelona the original and revolutionary sample of shirts that the Fashion and Textile Museum organised. I hope it is the first of many collaborations,” the fashion designer said.
What was the most rewarding moment in your career?
Receiving my Damehood and seeing Princess Diana and stars such as Freddie Mercury wearing my clothes.
You founded your brand in 1969. How has your approach to design changed over the years?
In 1969 I knew no boundaries. It is the same with every generation.
How much has the industry changed since you came into the scene?
More difficult for individuals to start on their own.
Has fashion lost the arty touch?
Now it is easier to copy and knock off.
The world is becoming very conservative. Should art and design push boundaries further? Can fashion still become a positive force?
It has become conservative in a very uptight way – it is possible that it has become more difficult to express oneself freely in a positive way.
What is the clue to staying relevant after 50 years in fashion?
Never give up.
What does punk mean to you?
My elegant jersey ‘Conceptual Chic’ collection of 1977 with holes, chains and beaded safety pins.
You are a lifetime patron of Graduate Fashion Week. Why is it important to support emerging talent?
The British colleges are the best in the world, breeding grounds of original ideas that have influenced the whole world. I came from this background and am proud to support them.
What is you advise for the younger generation?
Never give up. There is no substitute for hard work and persistence.
Millennials and Gen Z are striving for the unique. What is most exciting about this generation of consumers who are constructing their own individual identities beyond norms and definitions?
Each generation has its own point of view. Each will appear too far out for each parallel generation.
Your look has always been an extension of your work, which is rare in the industry. Not many designers use themselves as a platform to experiment with. If you look at some designers, the way they present themselves has nothing to do with their designs. Does the industry lack authenticity?
All designers to succeed must find out how they can work and find their style and work out where they fit it. My textiles were highly individual and at first were not accepted. I proved that they were wearable by making clothes from my prints then wearing them and creating the individual look that went with them. It was these garments that I took to Diana Vreeland, high Priestess of American Vogue and she photographed them on Natalie Wood.
Do you see your influence on the work of others?
I keep a book of press I find in magazines when I find copies strong influenced by my work.
What is most challenging about speaking with a distinctive voice in such a competitive market?
It always means you put yourself out for criticism.