Zandra Rhodes shares her life lessons

The fashion and textiles designer tells Yours what makes her tick.

zandra rhodes

by Vicki Power |

Clothes and textiles designer Dame Zandra Rhodes, 81, sat down with us to share what makes her tick and the advice she’d give to her 18 year old self…

Be your authentic self

I didn’t try to be different, but my textile designs just came out looking different. At the beginning of my career the head of a big textiles firm said to me, ‘I think you’re either going to fall flat on your face or make it very big.’ I’ve tried to keep my vision, be me and not worry about being different. If I then go out in the street and everyone is staring, it wouldn’t make me want to change it.

Life can be a rollercoaster

Success came gradually but one of my first high points was designing a ball gown for Princess Anne’s engagement in 1973 that was on the cover of Vogue. It was wonderful, and everyone thought that I would get to design her wedding dress. I didn’t, but things happen for a purpose, you know?

Zandra Rhodes

Try your best at whatever you do

One thing my dear mother would say is, ‘Good, better, best; never let it rest.’ I probably work a 14-to-15 hour day. At night when no one’s disturbing me I think about designs. I’d call myself a perfectionist, but the only reason for people to come to you is for the version of what you do. In 1986 Princess Diana came into my shop and chose a lovely black dress, but she wasn’t supposed to wear black then, so we redesigned it in pink.

Support charitable causes

I’ve always tried to give back when it comes to causes I care about. I recently designed a toilet seat for Water Aid because diseases spread without toilets. I do work for graduates in Fashion Week because it’s important to remember where we all came from. I’ve founded the Zandra Rhodes Foundation to catalogue and preserve all my past work.

Collaboration is good

During lockdown my team of two and I have done lots of fabulous collaborations. About five years ago I worked with Valentino (an Italian fashion house) – and for the head designer’s first collection he came to me for prints featuring lipsticks and animals. It was fabulous to see my designs being used by someone else in such a lovely way. During lockdown I did collaborations with IKEA and Free People. It’s stimulating to collaborate.

Travel expands your mind

In the Seventies and Eighties I went to Mexico and Kenya and all kinds of places that inspired my textile designs. One of my tops was based on a Mexican sombrero and another based on an Aztec design. I just need to get away, see things and draw. I’ve got loads of inspiration from going to India, and when I go to the countryside, the people want to touch my pink hair!

The advice I’d give my 18-year-old-self would be…

Work as hard as you can and you’re likely to succeed. Half of success in life is luck and taking the correct pathway. There is no reason to give up.

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