Zandra Rhodes at the Rochester Art Gallery looking at one her sketchbooks and smiling.
Zandra Rhodes at Rochester Art Gallery for the UCA - A Retrospective: Creativity Past, Present & Future exhibition. © Rikard Osterlund
Published: Thursday, 2nd February 2023

A new must-see exhibition showcasing garments and sketchbooks from British fashion icon Dame Zandra Rhodes has now opened in historic Rochester.

The split-site exhibition from the University of Creative Arts (UCA) is taking place at both UCA’s Zandra Rhodes Gallery and Rochester Art Gallery in the town’s High Street.

UCA - A Retrospective: Creativity Past, Present & Future is focusing on individual stories and features sketchbooks, photographs and personal testimonies from alumni, staff and students who have studied in Rochester over the past 130 years.

Commenting on her time and experiences at UCA Rochester, Dame Zandra Rhodes said: “UCA Rochester has a special place in my history and heart. I was lucky enough to grow up in Chatham. At that time the college was called ‘Medway College of Art’ where I studied for three years from the age of 17.

“In honour of Rochester UCA and those who attended it I have curated a small exhibition of some of my most famous styles to be open to the public in January 2023. You will see from my early sketchbooks on display how much of my early work was inspired by the Medway towns, and this upbringing will always stay with me.

“I have fond memories of going to school in Fort Pitt and on my early morning walk to school the wind would whistle through my ears in the most poetic way.

“Alongside my original college sketchbook, I have loaned two later sketchbooks and some of my most renowned garment designs such as a ‘73/44 Summer Dress’ and the ‘Manhattan Wrap Dress’. These designs were worn by greats such as Donna Summer, Carolina Herrera and Lauren Bacall. I can’t wait for you all to get down to Rochester and see this exhibition in person!”

There are works from more than 40 creatives on show at the exhibition, with prestigious jeweller Stephen Webster, renowned fashion designer Wendy Dagworthy and multi-talented artist Billy Childish joining Dame Zara Rhodes and other UCA students, graduates, alumni and staff.

The free exhibition, which is not to be missed, is on at Rochester Art Gallery from Friday, 27 January until Saturday, 15 April 2023 and at UCA’s Zandra Rhodes Gallery from Friday, 27 January until Tuesday, 14 March.

Rochester Art Gallery is open between 10am and 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday, at Medway Visitor Centre, 95 High Street, Rochester, Kent, ME1 1LX.

Zandra Rhodes Gallery is open between 10am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, at UCA Rochester, Fort Pitt, Rochester, Kent, ME1 1DZ.

Cllr Howard Doe, Deputy Leader of Medway Council and Portfolio Holder for Community Services, said: “Medway has produced many talented creatives over the years and this exhibition is a great opportunity to celebrate their work, as well as those who have honed their skills by studying here. We look forward to residents and visitors to Medway joining us at the exhibition over the coming months to take in the fantastic work from both the past and present, which will undoubtedly provide inspiration for aspiring artists and creatives.”

Rochester is easily accessible with its own railway station with high-speed connections into London, bus station and is close to major motorways.

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