Dreaming in colour: Dame Zandra Rhodes talks about her latest collaboration with Savoir – and finally finding the time for a good night’s sleep
Tempus speaks to the iconic British fashion designer about her greatest inspirations and achievements
Renowned British textile and fashion designer Dame Zandra Rhodes is no stranger to royalty or the rich and famous. Appointed her DBE by the Queen in 2014, Rhodes’ diverse clientele has included Diana, Princess of Wales, the Princess Royal, Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, to name a few.
Over the span of almost 60 years, she has revolutionised fashion and design through her textile prints, founding London’s Fashion and Textile Museum and collaborating with the likes of Valentino, Topshop, Mac cosmetics and more.
Throughout 2020, Rhodes, 80, has been inspired by the impact of Covid-19 – specifically the amount of time that the jet-setting designer has spent in her colourful London home (above the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey) during lockdown.
“All of a sudden, we’re looking at our homes and realising that they are more of a treasure than we recognised,” she says. Her latest collaboration is a bed and headboard design for British Luxury bed maker, Savoir. The new product features a selection of vibrant reworkings of her celebrated Field of Lilies motif – inspired by the pivotal 1973 collection in which Rhodes debuted her signature silk-screen Lilies – now launched in a variety of new colour palettes made exclusively for the Savoir collaboration, which starts at £33,680.
Rhodes describes the print – here, pictured with pops of coral and pink on vibrant greens – as “peaceful and romantic”. The design can be printed on a choice of fabrics including velvet, textured linen, viscose and cotton. Beneath the stylish headboard the structure of each Savoir bed is handcrafted using natural materials to provide a temperature-controlled bed to enhance sleep.
Here, Rhodes tells Tempus about her collaboration with Savoir, how she relaxes before bed – and why she can’t recall any of her sweet dreams.
Zandra, tell us about your collaboration with Savoir.
I received a magical award from the Walpole British Luxury Awards in 2019 and that’s when I had the chance to view a Savoir bed on display. It was love at first sight. As a designer, you take part in collaborations hoping that you’re uniquely adding to the product. In this collaboration, we’ve created a wonderful collection of Lilies colourways and the bed can be personalised across every element of its making, which is why it is so special. I keep thinking about how to design my bedroom around my Savoir bed. Perhaps I will have a canopy and drape it with a luxurious green net – like Miss Havisham in my Savoir tomb!
What inspired you to open up your home for this photoshoot?
Savoir wanted the shoot to relate to me as a designer. I believe that if you’re putting your name behind something, you need to be involved in the whole process. It needs to be a very special collaboration, and shooting in my Rainbow Penthouse felt very special to myself and the team. You see that the Savoir bed fits into my personal environment just as well as it would fit into someone else’s environment.
Years ago, before I moved here and my life became so busy, I had a very nice bedroom and would dress my bed in different glamorous sheets. I can’t wait to do that again –it will undoubtedly look very exotic. The Savoir x Zandra Rhodes bed is a wonderful statement piece and, once you start thinking that you spend a third of your life asleep, isn’t it wonderful to be able to have a bed that allows you such a sumptuous rest? It is a marvellous and important addition to everyone’s home – and the best investment one can make.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Mostly in people. When I look back at my career, I was first inspired by pop art – I was influenced hugely by Andy Warhol. Once that period smoothed over I visited Tokyo in 1971, where Issey Miyake sent me a bouquet of lilies and I started drawing them That was the beginning. I got into creating lilies and flowers.
I’ve known many different, exotic people through my life and have been lucky enough to be inspired by their creativity. There was an amazing stylist called Chelita Secunda, who was a muse to both [British fashion designer] Ossie Clark – who dominated the ’60s fashion scene – and myself. Secunda was one of those amazing people who would wear things in totally different ways, like putting dresses on back-to-front. She would come to my house in the evening and try things on and make me look at the garments in a completely new way. I find it’s best to get all sorts of things on a rail, not knowing at all what you’re going to do with them, and then someone will say: “It could look like this”.
What are your career highlights?
Being appointed a dame by the Queen – although being called a dame makes me feel extra old. I am very lucky in that I’ve managed to have a career designing prints for fabrics.
When I left college, everyone said my prints were too extreme and no one would want to buy them, and yet I ended up setting up a studio teaching and printing for myself. I’m lucky that I’m still here and able to create prints that people want to buy and will treasure. I feel very honoured that people remember my designs and want them to be saved.
How does your interior style reflect your personality and designs?
I love collecting things. I’ve been collecting art since I left college, 60 years ago; first vases and teapots – I thought they were affordable pieces – then, after the ceramics, I collected paintings and sculpture, and everything I live with now.
The first item I bought was a pink coffee pot by Carol McNicoll with matching cups, and saucers that looked like hands. Carol came to work for me as a printer in the ’70s, and she had just got into the Royal College of Art as a ceramist; I saw her work and, from then on, have collected it.
My personality definitely plays a part in both the interior and exterior of my home. As you can see, my bed is surrounded by screens carved in India, alongside wonderful vases by Kate Malone and paintings by artists like Duggie Fields and Andrew Stahl. I also have a magical chandelier by Andrew Logan. I’ve got all sort of things made by my artist friends.
Working creatively day to day, do you have an evening routine?
No! Prior to Covid-19, I had never had as much as seven hours of sleep. I have never been aware of my dreams. Maybe it’s down to my strange sleep patterns – I would typically work all night to get ready to go off to America, where I was living half the time. Now I’m in London all the time it has been quite a lovely contrast.
I have a TV for the very first time in my life. I sit up in my bed, which is piled with cushions, and watch it before I fall asleep – but I always have my sketchbook to hand to make drawings and notes on what I’m supposed to do the next day. I’m not sure if I’d call it a bedtime routine, but it’s my relaxation time.