Zandra Rhodes: “Fashion deserves credit. It takes as much effort as painting "| Fashion | Guardian

Zandra Rhodes: “Fashion deserves credit. It takes as much effort as painting | Fashion | Guardian Accessible to all, reader funded

As the exhibition celebrates 50 years of his work, designer Pucci talks about inspiration and the joys of ice cream and jam.


andra Rhodes was born in 1940 in Chatham, Kent, where her mother taught at a local art college and her father took a taxi. After studying printed design at the Royal School of Art, he opened his first fashion store on Fulham Road in London in 1967. Her debut collection was unveiled in American Vogue, modeled by actress Natalie Wood, and quickly became one of the most modern designers of the 70s and 80s, all wearing Princess Diana to Freddie Mercury. He continues to be a major influence in fashion, seeing his designs and prints revived in recent years by fashion labels such as Valentino, Dior and Fendi. A review of her work will open later this month at the London Fashion and Textile Museum.

How did it feel to put together a retrospective of your work?

You mean, like, while I'm still alive? Ha. Well, 50 years is a good number to celebrate. It was especially interesting looking at photos of my 80's fashion shows. I was the first to do great dramatic productions, and now looking back I think, "My God, how did I do that?"

Fashion shows are very popular right now; why do you think this is so?

I have no idea, but I think fashion deserves recognition. Creating takes as much effort as painting, but if you are a textile designer, you will be described as "decorative" art. If you are a painter, this is the "real" art. I don't think it makes any difference. There have been great fashion shows in London. I enjoyed Azzedine Alaïa at the Design Museum last year - she was a cute little knitter.

One of your dresses is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York at Camp: Fashion. What do you think of the show?

I do not agree with the concept of the Met camp. This is not a word I would use to describe the clothes that appear. Most of them are just beautiful - they don't go to camp.

It's all about big business ... I'm hard to go with Mr. Gucci's world
There is a lot of talk today about words related to gender and sex and orientation. Are you interested in this discussion?

It intrigues me, in part because it has a big impact on fashion. How you are perceived affects what you wear. Some of my dresses, for example, are objectively very feminine, but whoever wears them - and how - can change that.

You live next to the London Fashion Museum. Are they good neighbors?

Well, I founded this place in 2003. I started with this because I feel that British fashion is being forgotten - my work affected the world, so I decided to keep it. I'm not involved on a daily basis. I'll help if they need me. My career is duplicating and diving between different projects. I'm going to where the job is, which is in Sweden right now.

What's going on in Sweden?

My apartment was created this year at the Formex Interior Fair in Stockholm as an art exhibition, and now Ikea has asked me to work on the home goods line.

Your apartment is amazing. The collections of ceramics and stones are beautiful. Are you happy that it is considered art?

It seems to me that this is art. It has floor-to-ceiling windows and the outside seems to be coming in. And all the colors make me very happy.

Let the students live here, won't you?
Yes; if interns have nowhere to live while working for me, they can stay.
Most people can't wait to finish living with students.
I like that there are people nearby, that's a nice thing. And I can ignore them if I want to.
So you don't have a meal together?

I prepare food for everyone on Sundays. Just vegetable soup and jam ice cream ... You should try it. Tesco basics with a spoonful of gorgeous blackcurrant jam on it. It's delicious.

How did you get into fashion when you were in the printing house?

My mother taught sewing and we always had fashion magazines around the house, but it wasn't until I was at RCA in the early '60s that I started thinking about how to use my prints on dresses. Emilio Pucci had just become truly fashionable - it had a big impact. I met him when he came to London because everyone thought he was giving me a job, but he didn't.

Was your mother glad you were sewing?
He died when I was 24 years old before I started working.
It is a pity.
Don't worry, I'm sure he knows.
How has the fashion industry changed since you started?

It's about big business and I've always been independent. Years ago, I was huge in America, but now I have to fight to keep it going. I love my job and I am happy to fight for it, but it can feel a struggle. I feel like it's been a little.

This is not true - one of the things we have talked about is the upcoming exhibition of great work in your museum ...
Well, I'm hardly Mr. Gucci, who has the world at his feet.
No, but would you like to be?

Actually, I don't think I would. I don't think I would be very good at that either. And I'm going to do wonderful projects - Ikea's product range has been great and creating prints for the Valentino show last year was wonderful.

The title of your show is Fifty Years Fabulous. Were the years fabulous?
Not all of them, of course not - but you just ignore years that didn't exist.
• Zandra Rhodes: 50 years of fabulous time from September 27 to January 26, 2020 at the SE1 Fashion and Textile Museum in London.

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