First Impressions: ZANDRA RHODES
With her bright-pink hair and theatrical make-up, ZANDRA RHODES has stamped her identity on the world of fashion. She is the founder of the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, and is Chancellor of the University of the Creative Arts (UCA)
What are you working on at the moment?
I am an official mentor for The Prince's Trust Tomorrow campaign, to inspire the next generation at a time when more than a million young people are out of work. I am mentoring a young fashion designer called Susan Burne, from Wrexham. We'll be working together to create a fashion item that will be sold in aid of the charity. I'm also working on my next collection, which will be showing at London Fashion Week in September.
When were you at your happiest?
I'm at my happiest when I'm drawing in my sketchbooks to get inspiration for new textiles and staying away from emails.
What is your greatest fear?
That I can't design any more and have no new ideas.
What is your earliest memory?
Sitting on my father's shoulders on D-Day, celebrating the end of the war. I was four and a half.
Who has been your greatest influence?
My mother. She was an amazing, exotic woman, who taught dressmaking at Rochester College of Art. You could say clothes were in my blood. As a child, I remember her sewing and fitting ladies, and she always looked fabulous. She was the most stylish person in Chatham.
What do you most dislike about yourself?
Falling asleep. One minute I'm there and the next I'm gone. I just conk out.
What is your most treasured possession?
My sketchbooks. I have more than 70, which I have kept since I bought my first in Japan in 1971.
What trait do you deplore most in others?
I can't understand people who get drunk – I find it so pointless. I also deplore laziness in others.
Do you have a fantasy address?
I am very happy living where I live. I split my time between California on the beach and my Rainbow Room in Bermondsey. If I were to improve my current address, I would build a penthouse floor to see more of the London skyline.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
The age lines – I find ageing very annoying. When you see your hands getting older, it reminds you that you won't live forever. I tend not to look.
What is your favourite film?
Lawrence Of Arabia. I must have seen it more than 50 times. If I'm doing a puzzle while I'm watching it, I don't even need to look up – I can just tell you the next line.
Your favourite record or piece of music?
Boléro by Ravel or Land Of Hope And Glory. The recent Diamond Jubilee concert outside Buckingham Palace was fabulous, made all the more spectacular by Land Of Hope And Glory played to those wonderful fireworks.
Your favourite meal?
I adore soup, which I make myself. In the summer I make a very good cold grape and almond soup. In winter I make green pea soup with mint. And I do a mean bread-and-butter pudding.
Who would you most like to come to dinner?
My friends, whom I don't see enough. I would start with Andrew Logan, the sculptor, Larry Hagman, the actor, and Divine – she always liked my cooking.
What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?
I went from a friendly little art college to the Royal College of Art, where I asked a fellow student what she thought I should do with a new design. As a person who never swore, I was shocked when she turned and said to me, 'I couldn't care a f*** what you do.' I've never forgotten how small it made me feel.
Do you believe in aliens?
Well, Men In Black gave me something to think about. I really enjoyed that film.
What is your secret vice?
Do you write thank-you notes?
Yes, I always handwrite thank-you notes on Zandra Rhodes postcards.
Which phrase do you most overuse?
'I've just got too much work to do.'
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A Girl Friday to arrange me within an inch of my life. The kind of PA who packs a bag before I realise I need one and waits on me hand and foot.
What would you like your epitaph to say?
'She created new imagery in the world of printed textiles, and the resulting shape of the clothes she made ensured she left her own patterned mark on fashion.'
For more information on The Prince's Trust Tomorrow campaign: www.princes-trust.org.uk/tomorrow
Daily tip from the lady archive
“A GRACEFUL walk is a great asset, for sometimes it can create an illusion of beauty where little exists.”The Lady. Pleasant Exercises for Grace. 2nd April 1931