Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Back to the Fuchsia

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Back to the Fuchsia

Article excerpt


After success in the Seventies, Zandra Rhodes's time has come again, with the opening of her fashion museum

I MET Zandra Rhodes just before the long-awaited gala opening of her Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey Street, which took place last night. She was sitting in her rainbow-painted penthouse wearing green glasses, jabbing at her densely scribbled diary and declaring: "Look, I'm running this on a shoestring. I don't have a PR company, I'm all we've got. We have the personal addresses of a lot of celebrities, but whether they'll come, I couldn't tell you."

She need not have worried; in the end an eclectic mix that included Princess Michael, Shakira Caine, Julien Macdonald, Jarvis Cocker and his wife Camille turned up.

Due to sheer force of personality and a change in the fashion tide, Zandra's multicoloured, freakyfloaty-fairy aesthetic is having a comeback, and she's revelling in it.

Still a working British designer at 63, Zandra Rhodes hails from a time altogether more fabulous than ours.

Her clothes command thousands on the vintage market, she has a best-selling range in TopShop, and now she finally has her museum.

"I bought this place in 1996 because my work was being ignored," she declares. "I felt I should donate it to the nation so I wouldn't be forgotten."

Zandra had amassed an archive of 3,000 pieces going back to 1968.

During the minimalist Nineties, when taste turned against her, she bought an old warehouse with the idea of opening a museum to herself. Friends persuaded her to broaden her scope, so she came up with the idea of making it a museum to fashion, textiles and accessories from the 1950s.

It didn't help much: turned down for Lottery funding, she set about financing the project herself. She added another storey, creating four apartments with spectacular views of the river, kept a penthouse for herself and bankrolled her museum by selling off the others.

"It's been very scary, but look at it round here now," she says, gesturing out of the window at views of Norman Foster's "gherkin" and the designer cafes that crowd her street. "It's a whole new world out there."

The inaugural show, My Favourite Dress, is a haul of frocks contributed by 70 designers. Some, like Christian Lacroix, Romeo Gigli and Oscar de la Renta (for Balmain), have dipped deep and produced outstanding pieces.

Other contributions have more the air of the best thing the designer's PR department could grab off last season's rack. But as Zandra concedes: "There were some surprising things. But when they're on display, that will be their loss."

Her own favourite dress, a oneshouldered, pea-green, frondy number from 1974, is a plunge back into her glory days - the spontaneous, louche London of the glam-rock years. "I would have liked it in a better colour," she muses. …

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