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Fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, whose popularity was at its peak in the 1970s, is enjoying a comeback thanks to her newly opened Fashion and Textile Museum. It will house three thousand of Rhodes’ own creations and also support educational facilities, providing opportunities for people to study and become familiar with all areas of fashion and textiles.

Rhodes is well known for her unsubtle appearance: shocking pink hair and matching lips, eyelids heavily caked in deep purple. Her museum has just the same qualities: large walls of pink, yellow and orange as designed by Mexican architect Ricardo Legoretta. He is known for his lavish use of vast areas of warm, bold colours best demonstrated here in the entrance lobby, with its shocking pink walls (reflecting his client’s hair colour) andvibrant blue arch ceiling. This is Legoretta’s first building in Europe.However, as the building was once a cash-and-carry warehouse, it gives an impression that the architect worked on it more as an interior (andexterior) renovator.

‘My Favourite Dress’ is the theme for the opening exhibition, with dresses selected by seventy leading designers. The aim is to illustrate the creative process behind each dress; how the designer was inspired, came up with the design and realized the creation, by providing anecdotes and quotes from each.

Rhodes’ own favourite dress is a one-shouldered, pea green chiffon dress which she created in 1974. It features images of Ayers Rock, Australia, at sunset and sunrise together with pincushion plants. The dress is held in place at the top with a quilted satin panel. There are many colour variations, one of which was owned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Walking through the dimly lit exhibition space and looking up at the dresses hung from the ceiling, it is possible to see the lovely creations at a close range: witness the delicate chiffons, smooth silks, experimental synthetics and the rich, vibrant colours. Rhodes’ favourite of all is the ‘cage-dress’ by Romeo Gigli, “It gives an impression that it was selected with some thought behind it.”

You maybe surprised by Vivien Westwood’s selection. It is a charming brown knitted dress with flower motifs sewn on around the neckline. ‘After the war experimenting with many kinds of knitting techniques took place – knitting by hand, by machine. I feel that this dress is the epitome of this time.’

Elie Saab became well known for his dress worn by Halle Berry at the Oscars 2002. The full taffeta skirt was made of rich silk paired with a fine net tulle top. The breast and waist area was covered with delicately hand-embroidered flowers and leaves and the dress gives an impression of the wearer being half-naked, half-dressed. However the dress seems to be incomplete on its own, reflecting back to how Berry looked radiant in it, it is a good example of the wearer perfecting the look of the dress.

The Museum aims to hold two to three major exhibitions a year, manage international educational and outreach programmes as well as provide an extensive digital archive, with images of dresses and fabric in 72 dpi format.

Fashion & Textile Museum
Address: 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF, UK
Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 11:00-17:45
Tel: +44 (0)20 7403 0222

Text: Sari Uchida

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