Zandra's first collection

1. Zandra's first collection

The inspiration for Zandra Rhodes's first collection, The Knitted Circle in 1969, came from her childhood experiences of knitting, as well as from knitting with friends whilst on holiday in Wales, and also from the knitted textiles that she had seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Zandra Rhodes often refers to the inspiration of her mother who was a Senior Lecturer in the Fashion Department at Medway College of Design (now the Rochester campus of the University for the Creative Arts). In the video she talks about looking through her mother's sewing books and being inspired by the embroidery technique of chain stitch. From this she developed her textile print design 'Knitted Circle', which gave its name to her first collection, with the printed effect of chain stitch and knitting.

The Knitted Circle drawing, Zandra Rhodes Style Bible, 1969          Detail from The Knitted Circle Kaftan, 1960, Zandra Rhodes

Above: Details from The Knitted Circle drawing and kaftan, 1969 © Zandra Rhodes

As well as memories of her mother knitting, the designer was also inspired by knitting with friends whilst staying in Wales, such as British journalist Janet Street-Porter. She was also influenced by her visits to the Textile Study Rooms at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where she saw knitted bedspreads and embroidered bed hangings in chain stitch.

With a letter of introduction to Diana Vreeland, Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue, Zandra Rhodes set out on her first trip to New York and the designs for her first collection were photographed for Vogue worn by American actress Natalie Wood. The designer was also featured in Women's Wear Daily, and other revered fashion magazines followed suit. The entire collection was bought by the high-end department store, Henri Bendel, and snapped up by society ladies of New York, such as Evangeline Bruce, wife of the US Ambassador to the UK.