London SE1 website team

Zandra Rhodes' launch show

An exotic bird seems to have landed in Bermondsey Street.

The orange and shocking pink former cash & carry building has been transformed by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta into a robust exhibition and education space for fashion designer Zandra Rhodes. Her vision and persistence over eight years to create the Fashion & Textile Museum in Bermondsey Street have matched Sam Wanamaker's for Shakespeare's Globe just upstream at Bankside.

The launch exhibition is like no other: 70 dresses chosen by the
leading designers of the last two decades are displayed on see through dummies, suspended on gentle motors which raise and lower them like clouds, occasionally giving a twirl. Each dress hangs in a shaft of light and is accompanied by a caption giving the rationale for the choice. These captions are also works of art; 23,000 letters, handmade from strips of orange poly carbon placed on speech bubbles beneath each dress and lit to read like a flourescent display.

Zandra's own chosen design is stunning, with fabric patterns based on Australia's Ayers Rock: Jacquie Onassis had one too in a different colourway. Her favourite dress from the whole show? A black beaded cage dress from 1992 by Romeo Gigli. The hugely varied selection shows the artistic and technical skills of the world's designers and gives the lie to the idea that fashion is a transient irrelevance.

Christian Lacroix and some others have donated their dresses to build a core collection for the fashion resource centre for students, which will surely grow from this exciting and innovatory project. The cafe and bookshop will soon be ready, graced by a giant mirror glass Z. The community links and education projects already an integral part of the programme should ensure the rapid development of Bermondsey Street along the lines of Tate Modern and Bankside.

• Princess Michael has officially opened the Fashion & Textile Museum which opens its doors to the public at 11am on Monday 12 May. Admission 6; conc 4.

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