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A dream internship with Zandra Rhodes

One talented MassArt student studied with the London designer last summer and helped prep displays for the Boston show.

WHEN ICONIC BRITISH DESIGNER ZANDRA RHODES visited Massachusetts College of Art and Design in November 2011, the students were agog. At 72, the pink-haired dynamo has been creating exquisite textiles and fantasy fashions for more than 40 years.

It was like meeting a kindred spirit, says MassArt senior Sarah Burke, who shares Rhodes’s obsession with color, pattern, and painting. So when applying for a summer internship with the designer, Burke sent a portfolio of her paintings, rather than fashion illustrations.

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Rhodes was impressed, leading to what can best be described as a “Sarah in Wonderland” experience for Burke. In addition to working in the designer’s expansive London studio for three weeks in August, Burke was a house-guest in Rhodes’s psychedelically colorful flat. (For photos, check out her internship blog at livesarah.blogspot.com.)

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“It was magical,” the 23-year-old says as she walks through the Bakalar Gallery at MassArt, where the exhibition “Zandra Rhodes: A Lifelong Love Affair with Textiles” is on view through December 1. Burke was responsible for making many of the mannequins’ headscarves in the show.

“In London, I got to work on a little bit of everything, including drapery, sewing, and printing textiles from paper to pattern drafting to garment,” she explains. Burke says she was fascinated with Rhodes’s process of designing each print — often based on her world travels — with a specific garment in mind.

“The shape of the dress, sleeves, and hem all relate to the geometry in the pattern. It’s so simple and complex at the same time. That’s why her clothes are timeless.”

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