The largest exhibition dedicated to iconic British fashion designer Dame Zandra Rhodes was unveiled at Aberdeen Art Gallery today (Thursday). The exhibition opens to the public on Saturday 27.

Organised by the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, where the exhibition premiered in 2019/2020, this comprehensive retrospective considers 50 years of a fascinating and varied career, presenting influential looks, original textiles and archive material from a true design legend.

Dame Zandra’s unique use of bold prints, fiercely feminine and instantly recognisable patterns and theatrical colour palettes have sealed her place in design history, while her pink hair, statement make up and wearable art jewellery continue to stamp her personal identity on the international world of fashion.

This exhibition presents 50 looks - one from each year of Rhodes’ career: from a 1969 ankle-length kaftan, screen-printed in silk chiffon, to a 2021 kaftan in recycled polyester, part of the designer’s ‘KARISMATISK’ collaboration with IKEA.

In the exhibition gallery, a central multi-tiered plinth in the designer’s signature hot pink colour presents over 25 eye-catching ensembles. Elsewhere in the exhibition individual golden plinths highlight pieces from the designer’s early years, highlighting signature motifs and styles that recur and evolve throughout her career. A ‘chiffon forest’ of almost 30 hand-designed, screen-printed textiles hangs in rows, filling part of the exhibition space from floor to ceiling, allowing visitors to get up close to original versions of some of the designer’s most iconic prints from throughout her career.

Also on display is a collection of Dame Zandra’s original drawings, alongside larger than life reproductions of her illustrations. Famously, Rhodes is a constant creator, using her sketches of daily life to create her prints, which in turn inform her garments. The rare examples on display in Aberdeen offer new insight into a design process that has remained largely unchanged across the last 50 years.

Additional key pieces on show include A/W 1972’s ‘Shell Collection’ silk chiffon gown, still produced today for Matches; examples of A/W 1981’s ‘Gold Renaissance’ collection, looks from which were featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2019 exhibition Camp: Notes on Fashion; 1976-77’s highly influential, punk- inspired ‘Conceptual Chic’ and the now-iconic quilted ‘calico coat’ from 1969’s ‘Ukraine and Chevron Shawl’ collection.

Further must-see pieces include examples of designs worn by some of the biggest names in royalty and rock and roll including Diana, Princess of Wales, Freddie Mercury, Elizabeth Taylor, Kate Moss and HRH Princess Michael of Kent.

Dame Zandra Rhodes said: “I’m really delighted that 50 Years of Fabulous is finally opening in Aberdeen after it had to be postponed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I worked closely with the team at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum on the development of the exhibition, and I feel that it beautifully represents my love of textiles and constant creativity. There’s a wonderful range of garments and fabrics on display, and I’m also excited to share some of my drawings and sketchbooks. I still draw every single day and I hope that visitors to the exhibition will get an insight into my creative process and what inspires me.”

Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s culture spokesperson, said: “50 Years of Fabulous is bringing a bold touch of authentic Dame Zandra Rhodes style to Aberdeen Art Gallery. This really is an unmissable opportunity for visitors to explore Dame Zandra’s design skill and personal brand throughout a vast and remarkably successful career. We are thrilled that the exhibition is being seen outside of London for the first time here at Aberdeen Art Gallery.”