Design icon Zandra Rhodes celebrates ’50 Fabulous Years in Fashion’

Del Mar’s British-born ‘Princess of Punk’ dressed such A-listers as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Diana, Cher, Freddie Mercury, Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand


Iconic clothing and textile designer Zandra Rhodes — who was dubbed the “Princess of Punk” and named a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II — will mark the 50th anniversary of her star-studded career with a series of commemorative events that kicks off today.

Del Mar’s British-born, pink-haired, trailblazing fashionista dressed such A-list celebrities as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Diana, Cher, Freddie Mercury, Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand. Rhodes has also worked with some of the biggest names in the style universe, including Diana Vreeland, Suzy Menkes, Anna Sui, Manolo Blahnik, and Pierpaolo Piccioli, of Valentino.

So it’s fitting that all that fabulousness couldn’t be captured in just one anniversary event.

“My 50 years have been so busy, not a minute to breathe! I almost can’t believe I’ve survived 50 years in fashion. When I look back at my book I can’t believe how much I’ve done and created!” Rhodes said in an email from London early Tuesday.

Asked to cite her most memorable design or moment, Rhodes — whose use of the exclamation point mirrors her exuberant personality — couldn’t choose a single standout.

“Memorable moments seem to happen by accident! The pleated outfit I did for Freddie Mercury in 1974! Memorialized in a photo and then continually saved by his fans then I was asked to replicate it for the film “Bohemian Rhapsody,” she wrote. “Princess Anne in her royal engagement dress in net lace that I designed — I had no idea this photo was being taken until it was printed on the cover of Vogue and photographers were waiting for me at London airport when I got off the plane. Then most recently, Barbra Streisand asking me to make her pink fantasy outfit for her first Hyde Park concert ever! As she headed British Summer Time festival this July!”

Name dropping? Never. It’s just Rhodes talking about her momentous career. Here are the ways Rhodes’ five decades in fashion are being celebrated.

On paper: A book out today, “Zandra Rhodes: 50 Fabulous Years in Fashion,” was published by Yale University Press. The $40, 208-page hardcover is both memoir and picture book. Edited by Rhodes and Dennis Nothdruft, it features a preface by Iris Apfel, the fashion legend known by her signature over-sized black glasses. It includes a praise blurb from Blahnik, the stiletto-maven to the stars: “It was a huge privilege to work with such a dynamic and creative force as Zandra. THE most beautiful prints EVER.”

On the runway: Rhodes created a ready-to-wear Jubilee Collection for London Fashion Week, which concludes today. All of her garments were printed, cut and hand finished in her atelier in London.

On exhibit: A retrospective solo exhibition of “Zandra Rhodes: 50 Years of Fabulous” opens Sept. 27 at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum, which Rhodes founded.

In person: Rhodes will hold a book signing for “50 Fabulous Years in Fashion” at Warwick’s at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14. The event is free. Reserved seating available if a book is pre-ordered from Warwick’s. 7812 Girard Ave. La Jolla. (858) 454-0347.

On the runway, Part II: The 20th annual Zandra Rhodes fashion show, Champagne reception and three-course luncheon will take place at the Westgate Hotel from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 7. She’ll also sign books before the show. $140. 1055 Second Ave., downtown San Diego. (619) 238-1818.

On screen: While no release date has been announced, a preview of an upcoming documentary on Rhodes will be held at a book signing and luncheon at the L’Auberge Del Mar on Dec. 11. The event will also feature an auction of some of the designer’s vintage looks. 1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar. (858) 259-1515. Check for details.