14. The Conceptual Chic collection
"1977 was the year I became the infamous High Priestess of Punk" – Zandra Rhodes
In 1977 Zandra Rhodes made a dramatic departure from her floating silk chiffon, screen-printed designs, which she had been producing and had become famous for since her first collection in 1969. In this video Zandra Rhodes explains the inspiration behind The Conceptual Chic Collection of 1977-8, which came from London street culture and the punk movement at the time.
This led her to experiment with tears, safety pins, and sink chains to decorate her garments created from black, shocking pink, and bright red jersey fabric. She is acknowledged as the first high-end designer to blend elements of punk with glamorous couture, and her designs will be featured in a 2013 exhibition 'PUNK: Chaos to Couture' at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
"It was a journey into London street culture, that's true, but as with everything I do there were many influences at work, some lurking away in my subconscious, some staring me in the face, openly challenging me" – Zandra Rhodes
Whilst the press hailed it as Punk, Zandra Rhodes has acknowledged a number of other influences. In particular she was inspired by an earlier 1938 Elsa Schiaparelli dress with a print of jagged torn fabric shapes by Surrealist artist Salvador Dali. With its strategically placed tears, the collection can also be seen as a progression from Zandra Rhodes's earlier Elizabethan Slashed Silk Collection of 1971.
An interesting and frequently cited urban legend surrounds The Conceptual Chic Collection. It is said that when someone sent one of the outfits to the dry cleaners, it came back with a little bag containing the safety pins and all the holes had been mended.