A chat with Vivien of Holloway

Earlier this year, Christine’s (the Australian retailer of iconic brand Vivien Of Holloway) hosted a ‘Meet The Maker’ event for a few special guests.
I’ve chatted about the event here, so if you’d like to see more about how the day went, pop on over.
Once we fare-welled all our wonderful guests, I had a chance to sit down with Vivien for a Q & A.
Happy reading!

Dottie: We’ve seen from the amazing photos you share on social media that you’ve always dressed in the vintage aesthetic, what drew you to this style and has inspired you to be true to your style?
Vivien: I think it was the old movies that drew me towards it initially and finding unique items of clothing, and the classic silhouette of the woman elegantly dressed clicking down the street in their heels.

Dottie: Did you make your own clothes and did this inspire you to create VOH?
Vivien: I did make my own clothes, but they were always 50’s style clothes. The first dress I ever made, my father helped me make a new dress to go dancing in.
Dottie: Was he a tailor?
Vivien: No he just liked to have a go at everything and so he helped me in the early stages to develop and run VOH when I was abroad. I taught him to use the patterns and because he was colour blind he created some very…interesting pieces that’s for sure. That was back when things were a little simpler of course.

Dottie: What was your aim for VOH in the beginning? Did you ever imagine it would become so big?
Vivien: I wanted some new clothes, really, that was it! I wanted new clothes. As a child my favourite game to play was dress shop so I knew I always wanted a shop, but I always said “one day”. I never expected it to be the way it is now, because we had no idea the world wide web was going to happen and it made all the difference because it now allows you to sell all over the world. So it’s been really wonderful.

Dottie: Your designs are vintage reproductions not vintage inspired. How do you source and decide what patterns to make?
Vivien: I make the clothes I always wanted, it’s that simple. So there’s still loads of styles of dresses in my mind that I want to wear. I have hundreds of vintage fashion magazines that I’ve collected over the years as well as pattern catalogs and knitting books as inspiration that I refer back to that I’ve been collecting since I was 10. I used to knit and embroider and I was always experimenting. I was saying to my sister (Christine) just the other day, if you love sewing you always want the next piece you create to be a little more intricate than the last. So it was quite obvious at school that that’s where I was going and by the time I was 14 my teachers would actually let me give sewing lessons at school in the sewing room.

Dottie: You’ve dressed celebrities like Paloma Faith, if you could choose, which Hollywood starlet would you like to dress?
Vivien: Well when I was 15 I got a job as a costume maker, I made dance wear and so at 15, I’d get home and the stuff I’d make would be on television. We did things for major theater shows like Cats and the most famous people in dance. As for today I really don’t know.  I just love dressing Paloma, she’s a great friend and has such a classic look. I actually met her before she became famous and I think she should be way more famous than she is because she’s a star, so I really like dressing her. Hollywood today just isn’t like the old days. There’s no glamour anymore which is sad.

Dottie: Going back to Paloma, and the gorgeous Jezebel gown you created for her, do you see VOH releasing a line of gowns in the future?
Vivien: Yes I’ll hopefully be doing more ball gowns, I created Paloma’s and I’ve done another for a friend and that’s all…so far. We’re just thinking you know, how many ball gowns would we sell, but we’ll give it a go.

Dottie: You have become mine and so many others “go to” for 40s fashion, is this something we can expect to see more of?
Vivien: Oh, most definitely! It’s funny really, for years I’d style my hair more 40s but was making more 50s fashion. Now I style my hair more 50s and I feel I suit more 50s a lot now because it’s much more flattering for a fuller figure, but I love both. So there will be more 40s coming.

Dottie: I’ve heard a lot of plus size pinups loving your designs but are unable to wear them because they only go up to a size 20. Is this something you will consider expanding on in the future?
Vivien: I would love to, but without the finances, we’re just not able to do it. We do 8 sizes but unfortunately grading patterns makes it harder to know how to grade a pattern to suit plus size figures. One girl may have a bigger bust or tummy, so knowing where to put the extra on the pattern to make the garment the most flattering is really difficult. I don’t want to make clothes that won’t be the most flattering, I want to make women feel beautiful so I need my clothes to have the best fit to create a gorgeous shape.

Dottie: What can we expect to see coming up from VOH?
Vivien: Knitwear, knitwear, knitwear!
We’ve got a range of new cardigans coming out, we’ve already seen the red and black Jenny Cardigan, there will be a load of new colours and designs coming out like Marilyn sweater girl knitwear.

Dottie: And finally, as someone who has embraced this style your whole life, what advice would you give anyone wanting to try dressing this pinup themselves?
Vivien: Come in here! Come in and try things on and see what suits you. I’m never going to tell a woman something looks good if it didn’t, I would just pass you something that I know will look better. I would never want to do that to someone’s confidence, so you can rely on our sales assistants to help you dress and you can really trust them to find you the best accessories. We’re trying to bring this to the Australian store to make sure Christine has the best European made accessories like bangles for her Australian customers.

Vivien was such a joy to chat to and I’m glad I got the chance to speak with her. She truly is such an interesting person and for me having an interest in sewing, she is such an inspiration.

So what do you think? Did I get the scoop? There’s lots of new and exciting things coming our way from Vivien OF Holloway and my Australian readers can find a great range of VOH goodies currently on sale with a huge 30% off everything at Christine’s in Fitzroy, Victoria.


Thanks so much for reading.

Miss Dottie DeMure

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