It’s not often you can say that Freddie Mercury and a member of the British royal family share a designer, but Zandra Rhodes is not a typical designer. Zandra’s mother started her career as a fitter for the House of Worth and eventually became a professor at an art college, so Zandra’s life was always immersed in design.
Zandra received a scholarship to the Royal College of Art and did well there, although her designs were far different from the more conventional offerings of the other students. The word “outlandish” was often applied to her, which made it hard to find employment among the established design houses. She persevered and forged her own way. Initially, she established a partnership with Sylvia Ayton. Zandra designed the textiles, and Ayton the garments. Eventually Rhodes went her own way. Her flamboyant appearance worked its marketing magic and she began to find a niche for her unique clothes.
According to Rhodes, Diana “wandered” into her boutique in the mid-eighties, looking for clothes that were a bit sexier and more fun than her usual. The Princess did draw the line at high slits, though, understanding the dangers of photographers when she emerged from vehicles. The two very different women struck up a friendship and enjoyed a long collaboration.
Rhodes designed several garments for international tours, where Diana often looked to wear clothes that were less structured. This light pink dress, with a tasseled neckline, was worn during a trip to Japan.
The Princess looked lovely in white, and this feminine dress was a great choice for a visit to a charity that championed reproductive health(then called Birthright, now the “Wellbeing of Women”).
This light number was a cool looking dress that fit in beautifully with the hot climate in Dubai.
Zandra Rhodes has branched out to other ventures, notably in interior design. She has always looked back fondly to her collaboration with the Princess, who remained a friend until the end of her life.