Left: the ever vivacious Zandra Rhodes was joined by Princess Michael of Kent as she declared her museum open. © Patrick Anderson.
Accessorising with a notepad and pen, Penelope Parkin went where the beautiful people go to check out Zandra Rhodes' newest creation.
Not for the faint hearted, Zandra Rhodes' fabulous new flamingo pink and tortilla orange Fashion and Textile Museum, which opens to the public on May 12 strikes a serious bid to brighten up Bermondsey.
Designed by flamboyant Mexican architect Ricardo Legoretta, the Day-Glo, factory-style former cash and carry warehouse takes no prisoners, unrepentantly outdoing most buildings within its immediate radius. Impressively, it cost a designer £10m to build over six years.
The building's distinctive style perfectly reflects that of its free-spirited owner, whose trademark fuchsia hair, kohl-lined eyes and peacock-blue eyeshadow inspired American Vogue to crown her 'Queen of Punk' in 1977.
Right: the new museum and its first exhibition are a veritable fashion tour de force. © Patrick Anderson.
It looks set to prove a hit with fashion followers nationwide, though as Rhodes soberly concedes: “I stand or fall by this.”
The good news is that the museum's contents certainly don't look set to disappoint! Inside the vast two storey, 5000 foot square space with its glittering bright blue marble and glass entrance hall, 70 stunning creations by the world's most 'designer' designers await.
Opened by Princess Michael of Kent, a notably stylish Royal, they comprise the museum's first exhibition 'My Favourite Dress' which runs until November. It features a dazzling array of posh frocks including designs by Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani.
Rhodes herself memorably confides: “Issey Miyake knocks me out!” Thierry Mugler, whose attention to detail she also admires is another favourite. His contribution is a peach chiffon dress of which he comments:
Left: the new Fashion and Textile Museum - a building fit for an outrageously glamorous collection. © Patrick Anderson.
“I'd love to see the Virgin Mary in this dress with her milky ethereal skin. I showed it on a young model in Times Square during Mayor Giuliani's 'Tribute to New York' event. When she appeared the audience fell silent.”
Another highlight of the exhibition is undoubtedly Halle Berry's 2002 Oscar Ceremony dress by Elie Saab, which she wore to receive her Best Actress Oscar for her award winning performance in Monsters Ball.
The dress sports a wickedly transparent, sleeveless body sheath embroidered with vines and flowers, cut together with a regal dark red satin skirt. Created to the theme 'woman meets nature' it creates the illusion of the wearer being half naked. Apparently it has an inbuilt thong!
3000 of Rhodes' own creations are also on display. Her favourite is a short safari-green chiffon dress from 1973 in a print called 'Ayers Rock' and is based on drawings she did in the Australian outback.
Right: an outfit fit for a movie star and, quite appropriately, worn by Hollywood starlet Halle Berry to the Oscar ceremony at which she was awarded the prize for Best Actress. © Patrick Anderson.
She comments: “In this dress is true glamour. It makes a woman a statue. It has become a classic. Both Jackie Kennedy Onassis and her sister Princess Lee Radzwell posess one. It is my favourite dress because I never tire of it.”
Nevertheless, the museum also keeps one eye on the future. The Zandra Rhodes Fellowship will offer postgraduate fashion placements and flats above the museum to a lucky few who will work alongside her and develop curatorial skills.
Even younger would-be fashion impressarios from five local schools have also been encouraged. Aged six to fourteen, their impressive first efforts at textile design are currently on show.
This is a fantastic museum, established by a forward thinking icon of our times who isn't afraid to be an individual. I wish her and her beautiful building with its apprentices and posh frocks every success!
Reviewer Penelope Parkin is participating in the 24 Hour Museum / Museum and Galleries Month Arts Writing Prize.