The peripatetic London designer Zandra Rhodes jetted into town last week, and, as usual, her friends made her feel right at home.
She was lodged at the Beverly Hills home of art collectors Jack and Joan Quinn, and the socially active Contessa Cohn provided her with a car. A fast, black car. Rhodes says it makes her feel more like a Californian to drive herself than to be driven. Cohn even put some change under the carpet in case Rhodes encountered a parking meter.
Rhodes was up early (5:30 a.m.) to oversee details of a breakfast showing of her collection at Neiman-Marcus, where her clothes are sold. The next day, she met with customers, which she considers nearly as important a part of her job as designing.
The theme of the current fall collection is India, and after the show, friends and customers such as Barbara Lazaroff (who wore a Rhodes wedding gown when she married chef Wolfgang Puck) rushed to try on the gossamer chiffon dresses, some with Nehru collars, some with peacock-feather designs, some with matching narrow trousers underneath.
In the evenings, Rhodes was feted by more friends. One night it was Spago; the next night, Chasen's, where one of the restaurant's more conservative diners was overheard remarking on Rhodes' unusual pink "hat." Of course, the "hat" was Rhodes' rainbow-colored hair, which is now close-cropped and shocking pink. Her nails are also pink, with polka dots.
The rest of the people in the restaurant were torn between watching Rhodes or watching another colorful woman--Joan Collins--who was holding forth at a nearby table with George Hamilton and Catherine Oxenberg.
When you picture a woman who knits hours upon hours each day, Linda Rossbach is not the vision you come up with.
She's more the Krystle Carrington type. Beautiful, glamorous, rich and nice . Never mind that she learned to knit, crewel and crochet at the knees of her grandmother and has been doing it ever since.
The Miami-based Rossbach, wife of former Saks Fifth Avenue executive Jay Rossbach, is a slender woman with shoulder-length blond hair whose diamond bangle bracelets clank as she speaks of the small knitwear company she started in New York six years ago.
She not only designs all the sweaters in her line, she says, but knits every sample herself--and as she divulges this information, you just can't tear your eyes away from the huge yellow sapphire on her finger.
"My grandmother was like Queen Victoria," Rossbach said during a visit to Amen Wardy in Newport Beach. "She was a grande dame who brought up my sister and myself in the Old School. If I wanted something for my doll, I had to make it myself."
The doll clothes have given way to a collection of extravagant-looking, fantasy-motif sweaters that are handmade by 38 elderly European women who now live on the East Coast. Rossbach said she hired them because they too were taught to knit at their grandmothers' knees.
"There are knitters and there are knitters," she explained.
One leaf, on a sweater covered with jonquils, took four hours to crochet, making it the most expensive sweater in the line at $3,400. Prices start at $1,800.
The sweaters, made of double- and triple-strand silk, mohair and Angora yarns, are always constructed in the same basic silhouette.
The idea is to wear the sweaters at night, perhaps instead of a fur in cool weather.
Rossbach likes to see them worn with pajama pants, because, she says: "I'm a person who loves pants. They make me look tall."