Though famed for their predilection for all things minimal, there is room for color and print in the Nordics. Marimekko’s bold graphics are one example; then there are the textiles Josef Frank designed for Svenskt Tenn. It’s these, which Zandra Rhodes exhibited at her Fashion and Textile Museum in 2017, that are responsible for the late-blooming but ongoing love affair between designer and Sweden. One manifestation of this grande amour is an upcoming show and auction of archival Rhodes pieces at Stockholms Auktionsverk, the oldest operating auction house in the world.
Was it a coup de foudre? It’s probably more accurate to say that one thing led to another in this relationship. In 2018, and again this year, the flamboyant, pink-haired designer was invited to be part of Formex, a Swedish fair for interior design professionals. “The event organizers visited my Rainbow Penthouse home above the museum, and they fell head over heels with it,” Rhodes explains to Vogue. They insisted that [I] recreate my colorful London penthouse [at the fair] and that’s what we did!” This was a fruitful collaboration indeed; what the designer calls her “vibrant interior living style” captured the imagination of the bigwigs at IKEA, and will be translated for its customers worldwide through an upcoming collaboration.
The purpose behind Rhodes’s auction and retrospective in Stockholm (which precede a book launch and retrospective exhibition opening during London Fashion Week) is to introduce the designer’s work—and colorful history—to a wider Scandinavian audience, according to Beata af Donner, the expert in charge. The designer, who trained as a textile designer, refers to her pieces as “wearable dreams.” Rhodes approaches her work as an artist would; in her case, fabrics stand in for canvases. These materials are still silk-screened by hand and assembled in the London atelier, as they were 50 years ago. “Nothing I’ve ever done has a disposable nature,” she said in 2016 interview.
Though Rhodes’s signature has become floaty dresses with abstract patterns (Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli commissioned some of the latter for his solo debut collection for Spring 2017), the designer memorably played with punk, creating slashed, chain-hung jerseys in 1977. That same year she showed voluminous metallic gold pleated wonders, one of which Pat Cleveland wore to Studio 54. Bianca Jagger and Princess Diana are among the names on the iconoclast’s client list, too, which will expand, of course, after the auction.