Dame Zandra Rhodes Donates To Powerhouse

May 2, 2024

Zandra Rhodes Photo By: Zan Wimberley

Powerhouse is excited to announce an extraordinary donation by the Zandra Rhodes Foundation of key fashion garments and textiles from her extensive archive collected over an illustrious career spanning more than 50 years.

The rare and historical pieces were designed by Dame Zandra in the 1970s after connecting with the landscapes of Central Australia during her first visit.

One of the first international designers to explore Australia’s unique natural environment in her work, Rhodes came back to Australia in 1973 specifically to see Uluru before returning to London with the sketches that formed her iconic Ayers Rock Collection – now renamed the Uluru Collection – which she showcased to the world at London Fashion Week that same year.

Banners of screen-printed silk chiffon, dresses and garments including a felt cloak featuring Rhodes’ three main print designs from the Uluru Collection – Rock All Over, Spinifex and Lace Mountain – will form part of the donation. The Uluru print was used on a one-shouldered silk chiffon dress worn by former U.S. First Lady Jackie Kennedy. Using sketches she drew during her visit, Rhodes designed the dress with the concept of creating a new version of the 18th century French Toile de Jouy technique of fine engravings.

This generous gift by the Zandra Rhodes Foundation will be a welcome addition to the items designed by Rhodes already in the Powerhouse Collection. Each of these items has been acquired from incredible women including Lady Mary FairfaxVera Kaldor and Penelope Tree as well as Rhodes herself who in 1982 gifted one of her most iconic designs to the Powerhouse – the ‘Renaissance Cloth of Gold Crinoline’ – which she wore to the first Australian Women’s Weekly Fashion Awards held at Sydney Town Hall in 1982. The dress was a highlight in the recent Powerhouse exhibition 1001 Remarkable Objects.

This latest donation forms part of a significant global donation of the Zandra Rhodes Foundation archive to museums around the world for current and future generations to study and draw inspiration from.

Synonymous with her bright fuchsia hair, Rhodes launched her iconic brand in the 1960s, taking the London fashion scene by storm with its fusion of print, textiles and bold patterns that earned her the nickname ‘the Princess of Punk’ and led to her dressing some of the world’s most recognisable faces including Freddie MercuryDiana RossBarbara StreisandPrincess AnneJackie Kennedy and Princess Diana.

The Powerhouse is home to over 500,000 objects across the applied arts and sciences and has an extensive collection of 9,000 items of clothing and dress which includes historical and contemporary fashion.

Dame Zandra Rhodes said, ‘I am thrilled to have donated some of my most treasured pieces to the incredible Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Australia has always held a special place in my heart and my donation celebrates this, centering around garments inspired by my travels to this fabulous country. I first visited Australia in the early 1970s when I made a trip to the spectacular landmark Uluru. Sketching the world-famous site and the spinifex grass surrounding it led me to create my 1974 Uluru Collection and Spinifex print. My designs inspired by the drawings I did at the base of Uluru are some of my proudest and I am honoured that they will be housed in Sydney’s best museum.’

Powerhouse Chief Executive Lisa Havilah said, ‘Dame Zandra has been pushing the boundaries of fashion and textile design and creating iconic pieces for more than five decades. Her distinctive style has influenced thousands of creatives around the world and her legacy will be to continue to inspire many more generations of talent who are dedicated to doing things differently.  She not only believes in generations of new designers but is actively investing in their skills and talent through her foundation. We couldn’t be prouder to receive this incredible donation.’

Powerhouse Senior Collection Curator Roger Leong said, ‘Zandra Rhodes is that rare combination of boundless creativity and a methodical approach to design. Her acute observations are captured in photographs and sketchbooks, from which she creates her textile prints and, finally, the finished garments cut in tandem with her prints. This process produced magical results that are like nothing seen before. The Uluru Collection chronicles her wonder and appreciation of this ancient country’s special beauty, and ultimately, her unique contribution to fashion. It is so great to bring some of these pieces back to Australia and the Powerhouse Museum.’

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