Frock and Awe: Hadley Freeman on Why Zandra Rhodes Might Have the Last Laugh. (Fashion)

By Freeman, Hadley | New Statesman (1996), June 2, 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Frock and Awe: Hadley Freeman on Why Zandra Rhodes Might Have the Last Laugh. (Fashion)


Freeman, Hadley, New Statesman (1996)


Who'd have expected it? Zandra Rhodes, the designer with apenchant for eye-wateringly fluorescent clothes, who proudly describes her current hair colour as "pinkissimo", and coats her eyelids an inch thick in turquoise eyeshadow every morning, has pulled off a dazzling feat of co-ordination.

After nine troublesome years, the Fashion and Textile Museum, which for so long seemed simply Rhodes's impossible dream, has become a great pink and orange reality in SE1. Here, form and content are in perfect accord. A big, beautiful bubble of escapism, the museum is as gleefully oblivious of its grey surroundings as fashion itself. Like the British fashion industry, its imagination and ingenuity can just about be perceived through the lack of funding and ramshackle organisation; and, like Zandra Rhodes herself, the result is a heartwarming triumph of survival against the odds.

Rhodes, now 63, glided to prominence in the 1970s on a swirl of reds, pinks and yellows that she swished over her hand-painted clothes and across her face. But while she has happily stuck with her distinctive style over the decades, her rainbow swirled designs - once favoured by Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli and, of all unlikely Seventies fashion divas, Princess Anne - became as dated as dropping acid in the following decades. Come the 21st century, the fashion world, always fond of making the implausible desirable, has re-embraced Rhodes as "retro".

Throughout her turbulent career, Rhodes kept her sights on immortality in the form of establishing a museum dedicated to fashion. Such an idea might be taken for granted in other countries (France and the US, for example), but in Bhs Britain it seemed preposterous. Denied Lottery funding, Rhodes set about raising the [pounds sterling]4m herself, even selling her own house (she's been sleeping in the museum ever since).

Orange, pink and bold as brass, the museum is a noisy explosion on Bermondsey Street. The crystal and glass-studded entryway is as alluring as a shop window, but lust as you find yourself being seduced, loose threads begin to appear: grammatical mistakes in the blurbs; illegible exhibit descriptions, written in neon letters on the floor; higgledy-piggledy layout; and technical hitches with the rotating displays. The museum s computer system had temporarily packed up and, the press officer informed us, "obviously the lights aren't working". Obviously. As too often happens when "British" and "fashion" come together, the ambition is there, but the funding and business acumen are not.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Frock and Awe: Hadley Freeman on Why Zandra Rhodes Might Have the Last Laugh. (Fashion)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?