IT’S not often you get to meet a great dame, and, my goodness, I was not disappointed with fashion legend Dame Zandra Rhodes (right).
In Dublin to reveal her capsule collection for Colebrooke by Windsmoor, which is debuting in Arnotts, Rhodes has been there, done that and worn the t-shirt when it comes to all things fashion and design.
In the industry for more than 50 years, she has styled many a celebrity but yet still manages to be humble in her work.
Sitting down with her on a glorious morning at The Morrison Hotel, Rhodes – who by the way is 74 – has an infectious character that brightens up your day, just like the vibrant clothes and hair she is renowned for.
You would think that after five decades in the industry, launching a new collection would be second nature and that nerves wouldn’t come into it, but for Rhodes, that’s part of the package.
“I am still excited about bringing out a new collection but if I think about it too much I do get nervous, but it’s best not to think,” she laughed.
“I am very proud of the collection. I have had a great reception to it and it’s been great looking at different people wearing different parts, different ways, it’s been really fun,” she told The Gazette.
Like many designers, what can look fantastic on paper may not look so great in real life and this is something Rhodes is familiar with, saying she has had such designs and had to “cut them out” and move on.
“If it doesn’t work, you have to hope that you are strong enough to spot it and realise that it has to change. You don’t always know if it is going to work or not,” she said.
Asked what her secret to success in the fashion industry is, she said it’s the passion for the work that has kept her going.
“The fact [is] I love it – I like wearing clothes, I like designing prints, so I suppose it is all that. I can’t imagine myself not working in this industry. When people ask what else would I do, I just don’t know what I would be suitable for except designing – I don’t have another job.”
Not many 74-year-olds can pull off neon pink hair, and this look has been with her since 1980.
“I am a textile designer, so early in the 70s I said to myself: ‘I don’t want to be blonde, my hair is only sort of black; why don’t I dye it a different colour?’
“ I worked with Leonard [her hair stylist] and we perfected dying streaks in my hair. We did green, we did blue – because in those days you couldn’t buy those colours. So we dyed my hair green, then I had it blue, then purple, so I tried different things
“Then in 1979 I went on a trip to China. I came back and did a lovely Chinese collection which I did in lovely jade green, and gorgeous burnt reds, and I said: ‘Red China, dye your hair pink’, so from that day on I have been pink.
“It is so easy to keep. I have it bleached every six weeks. I love it,” she said.
Just recently, Rhodes, who received a CBE in 1997, was honoured in her home country, when she was made a Dame. “It is wonderful. I feel very honoured. When I first heard, I just felt very honoured. I received it on Friday the 13th” – not an unlucky day for Rhodes, so.
See her capsule collection for Colesbrooke by Windsmoor in Arnotts.