Thursday, 5 September 2013

Zandra Rhodes Studio Breakfast Tour

Lately, I seem to be able to fulfil dreams from my youth ... Zandra Rhodes has always been a heroine of mine - I have her book from over 20 years ago and have collected up all kinds of information since.

Last Friday, I had a fabulous day out in Bermondsey, London, at the Fashion and Textile Museum, where I'd booked a tour of the Zandra Rhodes print room and exhibition. After braving the rush hour tube and only getting lost once (!), I was pleased to find we actually were served breakfast once I'd got there!

People were arriving from all over the UK.......

We numbered over 20 in total and were divided into two groups. I made sure I was in the print room tour like a shot!  Dennis Nothdruft, exhibition curator, gave a preliminary talk and also introduced us to Magda(?), Morag(?), (should have noted her name, but I was too gobsmacked to be in the print room!), who was ready to explain the print process, which I have experience of anyway, but it was great to remember from times gone by .....

The main difference from my memories is the use of 'sticks', labelled with the names of different designs and hung in a row all down one side of the room - things like 'African Headscarves'. These are the exact lengths of the pattern repeats.  Printing is still all very 'artisan' based, even though Zandra is aware of modern methods such as digital printing. A print is made using a screen, left to dry on the table, then a gap left, then another print made (using the sticks to measure spaces in-between). The gaps are printed in once the surrounding print paste is dry.  Fans located over the table aid the drying process.  Prints are done on card first of all, as a test.  Up to 3 colours are used in each print and roughly a maximum of 3 metres of cloth are printed for a dress.

 There wasn't much room for us all to manoeuvre. On the opposite side to the sticks are screens - some huge ... and squeegees hung on another far wall.

A cleaning bath could be seen around one corner and pyramids of print pastes ... I think that the Opera 'Aida' must have been the last project worked on as most of the ring binders in one corner were labelled with this.

The print table is a work of art in itself .... it displays signs of all that has gone before in that the majority of prints are on chiffon which allows the print paste to leak through on to the table.

 We were shown print recipe and textile bibles, containing formulas for colours and samples of fabrics.

Also, strips of samples labelled with their individual projects which we could have a feel of.

 The chiffon still keeps its draping qualities even though print paste has been added.

Dennis explained that Zandra never throws anything away and past print table covers end up as curtains etc... He added that she could even come up with samples of fabric from years back, should a covered button be needed for a repair for example. She has trunks full of dresses - one of each she's ever made. Any dress from the past can be printed to order using this catalogue of past works. I was a teeny bit disappointed not to spot the great lady herself, though we were told that she divides her time between the UK and the US these days. At the end of the tour, we were given a print to take away - I'll frame mine as a souvenir of a great day!  Another post coming up next all about the exhibition and Zandra's creative process.

I didn't notice the sign behind me!


  1. Replies
    1. It was Catherine - I think there are more events like this coming up at the FTM.

  2. I am so jealous. I really must go to this museum It sounds wonderful.

  3. That's amazingly interesting. I'd love to go there sometime. Lucky you!

    1. Definitely worth a detour for Barbara, if not a special visit in itself!


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