Woman's Sweater by Zandra Rhodes
Zandra Rhodes (b. 1940) is something of an icon. She has been a part of the fashion world for the past fifty-plus years and has transformed the way people view textile design and printing. Rhodes inspires those who dress a little differently and is an excellent role model for those who think outside the box, having overcome many challenges to get to where she is today.
This cream-colored wool sweater, decorated with large faux pearls and narrow ruffles of knit, was donated to the university by Miles and Shirley Fiterman. Miles Fiterman was one of the first to start a business selling pre-fabricated homes after World War II. A consummate businessman, the company expanded to include forty-one states before being sold. The Fiterman’s were well known as wealthy dedicated art collectors and philanthropists.
The garment is knit primarily in the stockinette stitch, with a 2/2 knit and purl ribbing at the waist that has been turned under to form a double layer. The decorative elements at the neck and on the cuffs are knit in stockinette stitch and also turned under. Large faux pearl beads have been sewn into the ends of each ruffle at both the collar and cuffs. Pink wool has been used to define the cuff and collar details, with a row of pink yarn knit into the armscye as well. Sweaters can be found in a number of Rhodes’ collections; she learned to knit as a child. Her sweater designs and yarns are available from several suppliers, including the West Yorkshire Spinners and Ravelry. Two sweaters with similar construction and design elements to this example were found in Zandra Rhodes Collections from 1980.
Zandra Rhodes was born on September 19th, 1940. Her mother, who worked in the industry, introduced Zandra to the world of fashion. Rhodes studied textile design at Medway College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, graduating from there with a degree in home furnishing textile design.
Rhodes opened a boutique with Sylvia Ayton in 1968, called the Fulham Road Clothes shop. Ayton designed the clothing while Rhodes supplied the textile designs. After going their separate ways in 1969, Rhodes decided to open her own retail outlet in West London. During the seventies, Rhodes’ success increased until she was at the forefront of British fashion. Her dynamic, colorful, and bold prints were seen as anti-establishment while also becoming popular. Rhodes inspired, and was inspired by, the punk aesthetic, introducing deconstructed designs, exposed seams, and strategic rips into her clothing. The London street culture and punk movement inspired Rhodes to experiment with chains to ornament her garments. In 1977, Zandra released her signature collection of torn black and pink jersey with holes and safety pins. In the next few years she became an internationally acclaimed designer whose iconic work was seen on red carpets and runways and celebrities such as Princess Diana.
Rhodes is the founder of the Fashion and Textile Museum, whose mission is to showcase contemporary fashion and textile design. Oopened in 2003, the museum offers several exhibitions a year and hires out exhibitions around the world. It operates under the auspices of Newham College in London. In 2010, Rhodes was appointed a Chancellor of the University of Creative Arts, a university focused on art and design. She served until 2018, and maintains a connection to the university through a gallery space named in her honor and special digital collectin projects.
Zandra Rhodes had to learn to stand on her own two feet to achieve success. She never followed fashion’s rules. She continues to make it up as she goes along, inspiring future designers to keep fashion from becoming too serious.
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Susan J. Jerome, MS '06