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Volume 5, Issue 65  |  August 14, 2020

Dame Zandra Rhodes brings art and fashion to John Wayne Airport

Known as a pioneer of the British and international fashion scenes since the late 60s, Dame Zandra Rhodes brings her theatrical sense of style and design to John Wayne Airport (JWA) in a new “The Art of Opera” display showcasing her vibrant and textile-inspired set and costume designs for two operas, AÏDA and The Pearl Fishers. Ticketed passengers can view the exhibit through June.

“When it comes to art and culture, Orange County takes center stage through the combination of local, national, and international creativity and artistry,” said Orange County County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel. “Visitors, as well as art and fashion enthusiasts alike are sure to enjoy viewing the colorfully detailed opera costumes and set designs by Dame Zandra Rhodes.”

Passengers strolling through the Vi Smith Concourse Gallery located on the Departure (upper) Level (post-security), across from Gates 2 through 5 in Terminal A, Gates 18 through 21 in Terminal C and the free-standing display cases across from Gates 14 will have the opportunity to view captivating displays depicting Rhodes’ artistry and creativity to bring life and color to the opera’s stage and its characters.

Displays of Rhodes’ conceptualized art, photos, sketches, and more used as inspiration to design the sets and costumes for the following operas include:

AÏDA (Terminal A): An opera by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. The production takes place in the Old Kingdom of Egypt and tells the story of a captured and enslaved Ethiopian princess named AÏDA and Egyptian military commander Radamès who faces the challenge to choose between his country, and his love for AÏDA while also escaping the unrequited affection of the Egyptian King’s daughter.

The Pearl Fishers (Terminal C): An opera by French composer Georges Bizet, tells the story of two men who take a vow to remain friends eternally. Set in ancient times on the island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), their pledge of friendship is put to the test when they both fall in love with the same woman, a priestess who is fighting her own internal battles versus the prospect of love.

As the daughter of a fitter for the Paris fashion House of Worth and lecturer at Midway College of Art, Rhodes’ mother was the driving force that inspired her to join the fashion industry. After graduating from The Royal College of Art in London, Rhodes’ early textile designs were picked up by leading brands; however, they were considered too outrageous by many traditional British manufacturers. Ultimately, this led Rhodes to open a clothing shop with a co-designer, then later take her collection on her own across the country.

Throughout her 50-year career, her iconic textile collections have been featured in British and American Vogue magazines and sold internationally to Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and various boutiques. She has designed for clients as diverse as Diana Princess of Wales, Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Paris Hilton, Joan Rivers, Lauren Bacall and Queen’s Freddie Mercury, and continues to collaborate with brands that inspire her, including Valentino, TopShop and MAC Cosmetics. Through a partnership with IKEA, Rhodes will soon launch a line of home designs that explore a variety of local patterns and culture. 

For more information about John Wayne Airport’s Art Programs, visit

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