As some of you may know, I’ve recently been working with the amazing shop Christine’s in Fitzroy – as the official Australian stockist of renowned brand Vivien of Holloway, it’s certainly a favourite haunt of those of us in the Melbourne vintage scene! A couple of weeks ago I attended a lock-in party at the shop, where I had oodles of fun dressing up and meeting other retro lovers. I also got to meet the woman behind it all, Vivien herself! She and I had a wonderful chat about how she got started, her vintage clothing and sewing background, and just why the vintage scene is so amazing! Keep reading to find out what she said 😀
So Vivian, you obviously have a strong interest in vintage fashion and clothing – when did that all start for you?
I think I was about six, and my mum took me to a place on the air force camp near where we lived; they had a thrift store there. She didn’t like us wearing second-hand clothes, but I found this beautiful fifties sundress that I fell in love with, and I wouldn’t leave until she bought it for me. It was really pretty with roses all over it, and I think that was the start – I used to wear it with a little straw hat.
It went on from there; I took up crafts and sewing, and then when I was a little bit older, I wanted a pair of shoes – just like the ones you saw in the movies where the lady clicks down the street? – with French heels, and I had to have them. We searched all the shops, and of course, you can’t buy them from the shops. Then my mum said, “Oh, I know”, and she took me to a thrift store and it was just full, full, full of these shoes. So I was allowed one outfit and a pair of shoes.
Was it your love of vintage, then, that inspired you to turn it in to a business? That it was hard to find things in shops?
Yeah, I guess so; I started making my own clothes, eventually, because I was buying a lot from thrift stores, and then my mum encouraged me to alter them, because that’s what she’d do with her clothes. And once I started altering them, I’d get more and more intrigued: instead of just taking in seams, I’d take it apart and alter it properly, to the point where really I was reconstructing whole garments. Then I started making them from scratch – and then I realised I didn’t want to go to work! So I started selling them to my friends, then when I was seventeen I opened my first shop, which was in Kensington Market, very famous indoor market that everybody used to shop at – it was the alternative clothing place in London. When I opened it, I just filled it with my collection of vintage bits I’d picked up over the years, then as they sold I replaced them with ones I’d made.
Do you have any particular favourite styles or clothes out of the Vivien of Holloway range?
I’d say daytime I live in the Kitty dresses, and in the evenings…I live in Kitties! The thing I love about the clothes I make is that you can go out in the morning, and it doesn’t matter where you end up in the evening, you can wear the same clothes – though maybe you’d wish you’d worn some shoes that were a bit more formal when you left home! But you never feel out of place, you never feel underdressed.
What is it about the Vintage/Retro/Rockabilly scene do you think that appeals to so many different people from so many walks of life?
I think it encompasses so many different styles; different people are attracted for different reasons. I think for the girls it’s the glamour, and I think it’s really nice for the curvy girls – not that everyone in the scene is curvy, but it really brings the curvy girls in to the their own; instead of being embarrassed about curves, they suddenly realise they look amazing, not just “okay”, but amazing.
And then I think women are attracted to it because it doesn’t matter what they do in life, they like to look glamorous; it’s not about being weak or strong – you just want to look and feel feminine. Some people might feel that you shouldn’t, but why not?
I agree, I think a lot of people might say that dressing in a vintage style isn’t compatible with modern values or feminism, but that isn’t the case.
Right, I think a lot of the girls I meet, the young girls getting in to it now are actually very empowered. I’m not one to harp on about feminism, but I think it’s lovely to see very smart, clever girls who see the beauty in the clothes, and the value of it – it’s really great to see.
All the clothes in the Vivien of Holloway line are made in the UK, is that something that’s important to you?
Yes, it’s very important to me, to support your own economy. It didn’t necessarily start that way for me when I started looking in to having clothes made – I have very high standards for quality. I could get five hundred dresses made overseas, and when they arrive they could have one tiny little flaw – and I would want to send them back, and that would be near impossible. I didn’t want to have to compromise – I couldn’t sell something that I just wasn’t quite happy with. I always get lots of samples made, and I always send them back until they’re perfect. And that’s why sometimes we make a dress and it goes in to production, and we get a lot of feedback, and then it might get withdrawn for a few months, while we investigate if there’s a point to this or if we should change it.
Well, as someone who makes most of her own clothes and does a lot of sewing, the quality of the VOH clothes is definitely something you notice. Any final things you’d like to say about the brand?
Just that it makes me very happy that so many people enjoy it – it’s so wonderful to see people come in to the shop, and completely blossom when they put something on, they completely change. I was originally in to it in the 80s, when it had died down a bit, but it’s having a bit of a resurgence, and it’s so lovely to see all the young girls dressing up and having fun with it.
Thanks again to Vivien for doing this interview with me! I’m planning on heading over to the UK early next year so I look forward to meeting her again then hopefully 🙂 It was so lovely to talk to Vivien – I was so inspired by her journey from self-made fashonista to the fantastic business she runs today! I loved meeting all the other women who came along to the party too – I don’t have many friends who are into the vintage scene, so it’s always fun to hang out with like-minded people and admire each other’s sweet style 😉
Until next time,
Miss Maddy xx
Disclaimer: I do promotional modelling work for Christine’s and I receive a discount at the store, but there are no affiliate links in this post and all opinions expressed here are my own 🙂