Zandra Rhodes was born in Chatham, Kent, and was introduced to the world of fashion by her mother, who was a fitter in a Paris fashion house and a teacher at Medway College of Art Les Fawcett, now the University for the Creative Arts. Rhodes studied first at Medway and then at the Royal College of Art in London. Her major area of study was printed textile design.
Her early textile fashion designs were considered outrageous by the traditional British manufacturers.
Between 1966 and 1969, Zandra Rhodes and a fellow student, Sylvia Ayton, opened a boutique together called the Fulham Road Clothes Shop. Sylvia Ayton designed the clothing and Rhodes supplied the textile designs from which they were made. In 1969, Rhodes and Ayton went their separate ways, with Rhodes establishing her own retail outlet in the fashionable Fulham Road in West London. Rhodes' own lifestyle has proved to be as dramatic, glamorous and extrovert as her designs. With her bright green hair (later changed to a pink and sometimes red or other colours), theatrical makeup and art jewelry, she stamped her identity on the international world of fashion.
Rhodes was one of the new wave of British designers who put London at the forefront of the international fashion scene in the 1970s. Her designs are considered clear, creative statements, dramatic but graceful, bold but feminine. Rhodes' inspiration has been from organic material and nature. Her approach to the construction of garments can be seen in her use of reversed exposed seams and in her use of jeweled safety pins and tears during the punk era.
Rhodes designed for Diana, Princess of Wales, and continues to design for royalty and celebrities. She notably designed several of famous costumes for Freddie Mercury of Queen. She has a strong following in the US, UK, and Australia. Over the years, she has had many academic and professional honours bestowed upon her and was made a Commander of the British Empire by the Queen in 1997.
Rhodes splits her time between homes in Del Mar and London. The San Diego Opera commissioned her to design the costumes for her first opera, The Magic Flute, in 2001. Rhodes continued her association with the San Diego Opera in 2004 when she designed the set and costumes for Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles. She designed for Verdi's Aida at the Houston Grand Opera and English National Opera.
Rhodes also appeared, as herself, in an episode of Absolutely Fabulous during the BBC show's second season.
Rhodes was a Guest Judge for the first episode of the third season of Project Catwalk.
In November 2009, Zandra Rhodes was appointed Chancellor of the University for the Creative Arts, one of the UK's newest universities, and only the second to focus specifically on art and design. An official installation ceremony took place in June 2010, accompanied by a fashion show highlighting the best designs from the BA (Hons) Fashion Design and BA (Hons) Fashion Innovation Management courses at the Rochester campus in Medway, Kent - where Rhodes studied, under its former title of the Medway College of Art and BA (Hons) Fashion at Epsom in Surrey.
Zandra also has her very own collection of jewellery. The Zandra Rhodes jewellery includes five separate collections, which are Oriental Whisper collection, Punk Chic Collection, Lovely Lilies collection, Signature collection and Manhattan Lady Collection. Zandra Rhodes has also further more recent jewellery collection created in collaboration with Adele Marie London, called Zandra Rhodes for Adele Marie which launched in August 2011. This collection features iconic pieces of Zandra's early textiles work remade as jewellery.
Zandra Rhodes launched a handbag range made under license by Bluprint in 2010 and has also collaborated to produce a bed linen range and an outdoor clothing range.
On 26 March 2013, Zandra Rhodes launched a Digital Study Collection of 500 of her iconic garments from her private archive, as well as drawings and behind-the-scenes interviews and tutorials in her studio. The Zandra Rhodes Digital Study Collection was developed through a project led by the University for the Creative Arts and funded by Jisc.
- Morgan, Ann Lee (ed.) (1984) "Rhodes, Zandra (1940-)" Contemporary Designers First edition, Gale Research, Detroit;
- O'Hara, Georgina (1986) "Rhodes, Zandra (1940-)" The Encyclopaedia of Fashion Harry N. Abrams, New York;
- Parry, Melanie (ed.) (1997) "Rhodes, Zandra (1940-)" Chambers Biographical Dictionary Sixth edition, Larousse Kingfisher Chambers, New York;
- Crystal, David (ed.) (1998) "Rhodes, Zandra (1940-)" The Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia Second edition, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England;
- San Diego Opera News Release: 
- The Art of Zandra Rhodes
- Zandra Rhodes: A Lifelong Love Affair with Textiles
- "Fashion designer crashes car into Calif. store". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
- Shroder, S. Fashion designer crashes car into La Jolla hardware store. Signonsandiego.com, 30 June 2009.
- Zandra Rhodes' design archive launched online, BBC News.
- Gemondo Zandra Rhodes Jewellery
- Zandra Rhodes for Adele Marie
- Interview with VOGUE.COM
- University for the Creative Arts
- BBC coverage
|Chancellor of the University for the Creative Arts