Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Art to Wear: Zandra Rhodes

I am always attracted to the promise of art to wear, and truthfully am often disappointed by what I see. It is, unfortunately, fairly common for textile designers to have a greater love for fabric and pattern than knowledge of or interest in garment design. So often, much wearable art is that - art fabric which is wearable, but not necessarily flattering nor design conscious. Having trained as a textile designer, I understand the temptation to fall in love with the fabric, and have that dominate the ultimate piece of clothing. And having knowledge of tribal cultures and their use of minimally cut fabric in clothing design only perpetuates the desire to emulate this.

And then, there is Zandra Rhodes.

I was fortunate to have caught a show of her work at the Mingei Museum in San Diego this weekend, and was absolutely thilled, inspired, and knocked over by her work. Rhodes is a textile designer at heart and by training, but has developed a unique fashion design vocabulary which is, while often inspired by tribal and ancient textiles, always fiercely conscious of the body. As a major force in the British fashion world, Rhodes has received well-deserved acclaim for her collections' original approach to pattern, fabric, color, cut, and embellishment, all stemming from her textile designs and then built painstakingly to design perfection.

So inspiring was this show that it got me thinking - again - about the merger of art and design, of the ability to project personal expression through clothing, and the amazing ability of artists to take materials which have been worked with for centuries, millenia even, and create something brand new. Brava, Zandra!

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