Uluru in Australia’s red desert has inspired Dame Zandra. Photo: Getty Images


A word with... Dame Zandra Rhodes

The British fashion designer opened her first shop in London in 1967. Her bold signature dresses have been worn by Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor and Kate Moss. Most recently, the 74-year-old partnered with Fairtrade fashion pioneer People Tree to create an ethical collection that is helping some of the world’s poorest communities

Which country has most inspired your work?
Either Australia or India. I visited Ayers Rock in 1973 and it blew me away. When I got home, I did a series of prints based on the visit. My first trip to India was in 1981 as a guest of the government. The colours were like nothing I’d ever experienced.

What’s the most memorable hotel you’ve stayed in?
In Sri Lanka, we stayed in a wonderful guesthouse called Helga’s Folly (pictured below), run by [the late fashion editor] Isabella Blow’s mother-in-law. It’s colourful and slightly hippyish. I had met Isabella and her husband many times, but we ended up there by accident.

What’s the roughest travelling you’ve ever done?
A trip to Morocco in the early 1980s with artist and friend Andrew Logan. We were driving there in the off-season and staying wherever we ended up. It’s always refreshing ‘slumming it’ on holiday because you get a different point of view.


Where is top of your bucket list?
I’d love to go to Tibet or Bhutan. I’ve always thought Tibet would be intriguing, though now they’ve built highways it’s probably not as rough and ready. I’m sure [the capital] Lhasa is amazing though.

How do you escape the crowds in London?
The Isabella Plantation is great, especially in spring. It’s a 40-acre woodland garden in Richmond Park. In April I take wonderful photos of my friends among the flowers.

Where have you travelled recently for work?
I’ve been working on a collaboration with People Tree, so I went to Bangladesh to see my Fairtrade collection being made. The experience was overwhelming – the company really believes in putting back into the community. It has helped set up schools and makes sure all the workers are looked after and enjoy what they’re doing.


Dame Zandra meeting a local in Bangladesh as part of her work with People Tree

Top three packing essentials?
My sketchbook, a lovely colourful shawl and my hair dye. If I’m somewhere sunny my hair starts to go light pink.

Top travel tip?
I have a holder for my ticket and passport that I wear around my neck like a schoolgirl. It means I can always find them, and I don’t take it off until I’ve landed. 

Interview by Etan Smallman

This article has been tagged Opinion, Travel Tips