Day dress by Vivian Chan Shaw
Vivian Chan Shaw has been an enduring figure in Australian fashion for over 30 years and has, in an industry renowned for it's trend driven volatility, an extraordinarily loyal local and international clientele. This dress was designed and made by Vivian Chan Shaw in 1973 and is a beautiful example of the distinctive appliqued jersey pieces she was creating in the early 1970s.
The dress is an early example of Chan Shaw's designs and reflects her philosophy of creating unique designs which surpass seasonal trends, fit and flatter a wide range of figure and age groups, are comfortable to wear and pack small and light for travel. These are attributes not usually associated with contemporary fashion whose prime focus is on production and marketing to a size and age range often limited to the young and slim and with an economic imperative to constantly reinvent and renew itself. Chan Shaw has provided an empowering and original, fashionable alternative for women, many of whom feel dispossessed by mainstream fashion.
Chan Shaw started her label with a range of hand made one-off jersey garments featuring hand rolled edges and elaborate appliqued designs. Even at this early stage her outfits were constructed for comfort and designed with drawstrings and wrap and tie closures providing flexibility of fit. They sold through her first retail outlet, Jeunesse, established in 1972 in the Royal Arcade, under the Sydney Hilton Hotel.
By the late 1970s Chan Shaw was including a few hand knitted garments in her production and was increasingly drawn to the potential of this medium. A knitting revival was underway in the 1970s and 1980s with craft practitioners and artists exploring and experimenting with various techniques and forms. Designers like Jenny Kee successfully melded art, craft and fashion in knitwear and this cross fertilisation of the medium was dubbed 'art clothes' or 'wearable art'. Chan Shaw also began to experiment with form, texture and colour in her knitwear, however she wanted to take the raw hand-crafted feel out of the medium, producing instead very refined hand-loomed knits with a high fashion feel.
In 1986 she opened her eponymous retail outlet in the Queen Victoria Building and concentrated exclusively on high quality knitwear, refining her distinctive signature of draped and layered, asymmetric forms and interchangeable pieces.