In the global quest for optimism, the work of British designer Zandra Rhodes is gaining new relevance.
The 80-year-old designer, best known for her hot pink bob and flair for all things romantic and printed, is collaborating with contemporary label Free People to create a limited-edition capsule featuring some of Rhodes’ archival prints and the two brands’ shared Bohemian attitude.
The eight-piece collection features a star print inspired by Carnaby Street in the ’60s, some of the shell prints Rhodes created in the ’70s, and a circular Aztec print harking back to the designers’ early trips to Mexico.
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The prints are splashed all over signature Free People silhouettes like loose summer dresses, leather jackets, kimonos, jumpsuits, and maxiskirts.
“It’s very interesting that the clothes appeal to different generations. I looked at it and thought I could wear it without feeling I’m dressing too young,” said Rhodes, speaking from her South London apartment, filled with art and furniture as colorful and optimistic as her fashion.
She has been staying put in her home since the beginning of the pandemic but has kept busy all the way through, spearheading a number of collaborations, from Free People to Ikea and Happy Socks.
“I’ve been able to continue all my work, getting samples sent here or approving designs over Zoom. Nothing has really been held up,” said Rhodes. “It’s a wonderful new flowering for me that might not have happened otherwise.
Instead of traveling around the world and doing shows, which I was one time liking in the ’90s, we’ve been able to continue online.”
The biggest compliment for Rhodes has been to see the enduring relevance of her prints. “The team at Free People chose the things they felt were vibrant for today.
With the shell spiral, they really have used it marvelously in the legs of the jumpsuit and on the kimono,” said the designer, who took Free People’s chief creative director Ana Hartl through 50 years’ worth of print archives to pick her favorites.
A less seasonal and more timeless design approach is the answer to much of the industry’s issues, as far as Rhodes is concerned: “I think the fashion industry has got to change. We’ve got to be very aware of waste.
We need something new, but I think that the art form of the fashion industry will be having things that are new to mix with the things that are old, so you’re renewing, not totally changing the looks.”
She also had time to think about her legacy, setting up the Zandra Rhodes Foundation; cataloging her entire body of work; making donations to the Metropolitan Costume Institute, the Victoria & Albert, and Fashion and Textile Museums, and contemplating writing a memoir.
“When I eventually disappear, this flat will be a part of the museum, and then the foundation will be right below. I feel very strongly that one should give back,” said the designer.