The Mexican Collections

13. The Mexican Collections

"I went with a boyfriend in a Volkswagen camper around Mexico and actually hated it" – Zandra Rhodes

After trips to the Australian Outback and across the United States which inspired The Ayers Rock Collection (1974) and The Cactus Cowboy Collection (1976), Zandra Rhodes had developed a passion for deserts and set off on a trip to Mexico. At that time in the mid-1970s she found it a complete culture shock and as she states in the video, "it wasn't very equipped for campers."

Whilst on the trip she drew great inspiration from photographing at the market places and by drawing at the Aztec temples, spawning a whole new collection with a new bout of print designs.

Photograph of sombrero by Halans from Flickr          Dress with 'Mexican Sombrero' print, 1976-78, Zandra Rhodes
Above: photograph of sombrero courtesy of Halans; detail of dress with 'Mexican Sombrero' print, 1976-8 © Zandra Rhodes.

The idea for her 'Mexican Sombrero' print came from the giant embroidered sombreros that she saw laid out in rows in vibrant colours at the markets, which she photographed looking down from an aerial view.

Her drawings of the Aztec walls and temples inspired another print design called 'Mexican Turnaround'. As she describes in the video, she had drawn Aztec brickwork with decorative stones pressed between the bricks. This was developed into a print design consisting of a diamond shape of bricks with pebble-like detailing, as well as Miró-like motifs, and fan shapes based on the embroidery from the sombreros that she had seen.

Dress with 'Mexican Turnaround' print, 1976-78, Zandra Rhodes   Dress with 'Mexican Turnaround' print, 1976-78, Zandra Rhodes
Above: details of dresses with 'Mexican Turnaround' print, 1976-8 © Zandra Rhodes.

Zandra Rhodes used her unique construction technique that she developed with her first collection in 1969 to create the shape of the final garments based on the print design itself. The diamond rather than bodice shaped print of the 'Mexican Turnaround' led to new garment shapes such as the petal-type chiffon dresses like 77/1. Zandra Rhodes also dyed beads to match or co-ordinate with the print and chiffon colours. By dying them herself, many more colours were possible.

Dresses from The Mexican Collections have been photographed at the time worn by icons such as the models Bianca Jagger and Jerry Hall.