Zesty Zandra

Name a fabric in the world and the chances are this unassuming lady with upbeat pink hair has had a hand with it.

Seasoned designer Dame Zandra Rhodes is a true visionary; each type of textile is another adventure with a thousand possibilities of looks that she can whip up in no time. The latest ammo in her arsenal of expertise happens to be the royal textile of Malaysia – the songket.

Taking a bow at the KL Alta Moda runway.
Taking a bow at the KL Alta Moda runway.

It may be difficult for some of us to imagine such a regal fabric being utilised to create modern fashion pieces but that just happens to be in the Dame’s comfort zone, who always manages to find the balance. “As an individual designer, I tend to design and hold it up and think to myself: ‘Would I wear it?’ You can’t just say I’ve designed it but I wouldn’t wear it. In which case, how can you expect other people to want to wear it?” she shares.

Hailing from England, the jovial couturier is often acknowledged as the ‘Queen of Prints’ for her passion for motifs and the astute capability to merge patterns and silhouettes into something entirely whimsical.

Whimsical touches are the Dame's forte.
Whimsical touches are the Dame’s forte.

Over her five-decade career she has dressed numerous icons such as the Princess of Wales Lady Diana and Queen’s Freddie Mercury; opened the Fashion & Textile Museum, an establishment the celebrates two of her delights; and of course designed the outfits for creative operas around the world.

The Fashion & Textile Museum by Dame Zandra Rhodes located in Bermondsey Street, England.
The Fashion & Textile Museum by Dame Zandra Rhodes located in Bermondsey Street, England.

If the hair does not tell you this already, the Dame does not have any plans to slow down anytime soon. This year, apart from her collaboration with maison Valentino to create a series of prints for its Spring/Summer 2017 collection, she presented her own songket-inspired Autumn/Winter 2016 collection right here in Malaysia, at the KL Alta Moda event held in conjuction with A Journey Through Time, an annual celebration of watches, jewellery and other fineries by Starhill Gallery.

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The collection featuring songket, the royal textile of Malaysia, comes on the heels of Zandra’s foray into the other famous fabric of the country – batik. The designer is well-known for shining an international spotlight on the traditional batik, using the material as the main detail of her past showcases on various runways, including London Fashion Week.

Timeless fashion applies only if someone else says ‘I could still wear it’ many years down the road.

Back to the KL Alta Moda runway, Dame Zandra also took the opportunity to showcase some of her timeless pieces that are currently sold on Matches Fashion. Called the Zandra Rhodes Archive, the capsule collection features iconic dresses either worn or inspired by great women in history, including the cherry blossom dress Princess Diana wore on her trip to Japan in 1986, the golden-glamorous Pat Cleveland-inspired Studio 54 number and the Frida dress, enthused by one of Zandra’s muses, Mexican poet Frida Kahlo.

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It is worth noting that one of Zandra’s earliest idols when she began her career was Emilio Pucci, who at the time was all about being bold and loud. Her advice for budding designers who might be regarding her as their inspiration? “(The world of design) is full of ups and down. One minute you could be amazingly inspired but in other times you fall flat on your face. I think the only thing you could do in life is try and follow your instincts, even though they don’t always seem a good way to go, for something will always happen.”

Her favourite pattern to include in her designs? “I tend to put my wiggles on things. Whether they’re little or big,” she says laughingly.

For information on the one and only Dame Zandra Rhodes, please visit her colourful website at http://www.zandrarhodes.com/.

Vimal Palasekaran

Vimal Palasekaran

Loud laugher. TV buff. Hispanophone.
Vimal Palasekaran

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