These two adjectives can apply equally well to the exhibition of Vivienne Poy’s work as they can to Vivienne herself. Many family and friends joined in the celebration of the opening of our exhibit, Vivienne Poy: A Legacy of Fashion, Politics & Philanthropy. Vivienne recounted her time in the Fashion Arts Program and spoke of her path to success in the industry.
More than one guest commented on her elegant style, vivacious personality and the passion for creating beauty that shone through each of the garments that she designed and many of which were on display. And at least one guest appeared in an original Vivienne Poy purchase!
Vivienne’s company, Vivienne Poy Mode was run for 14 years and served a clientele who were clearly interested in fashions that would never be dreary or minimal. Vivienne described her target customers as: “Elegant, mature, active, practical, women who wanted comfort with style.” And that, “Comfort must go hand in hand with beauty and elegance.” These affirmations explain why her steadfastly loyal clientele came back year after year.
Her work celebrated femininity in the era of power dressing. The designs reflect the silhouettes of the 1980s and 1990s but in a way that allowed women to be perceived as vibrant and strong, confident in their abilities.
Her love of art and nature can be found in the organic lines as well as flora and fauna expressed both literally and in a more subtle, abstract way.
We posed a variety of questions which Vivienne answered and which highlighted not only the design work but her opinions about fashion and inspiration. Below are some of those questions and answers interspersed with images from the exhibition.
Q: What first drew you to the field of fashion design?
Vivienne: I was fortunate to have been born with an artistic flare, and have painted sunsets and flowers since I was a very small child. As a practical person, it makes sense to turn that talent into wearable art.
Vivienne: I wanted to create my own fabric. Knitwear gives me the freedom to create textures, sheen, and colours.
Q: Colour and beautiful embellishments appear to be hallmarks of your work. Would you agree with this statement? And, if so can you explain why they were so important to you?
Vivienne: Yes, that’s my signature. We have invented new stitches, new textures, and new ways of beading. Not only are they beautiful, they are unique.
Q: Do you see a connection or relationship between your work as a fashion designer and your work in the senate advocating for gender issues, multiculturalism, and human rights?
Vivienne: Yes, they both require similar skills. Leadership, problem solving, farsightedness and the desire to improve life for others
Q: Given your education and obvious appreciation of history, how do you think an understanding of fashion history can help young designers? Vivienne: A lot of inspiration as well as techniques can be learnt from the past. Fashion history is a reflection of society of its day. Understanding social trends is important for fashion designers.
Q: How can Canadians who love fashion contribute to furthering human rights and equality when they purchase clothes?
Vivienne: Don’t buy clothes made in countries where manufacturing conditions are known to be unsafe. Buy clothes that are well made, even at a higher cost, and keep them for a long time, which in turn will help to save our planet.
Q: Do you think Canadians have a unique sense of fashion? If so what makes us unique?
Vivienne: No, Canadian fashion sense is global.
Q: What advice would you give to young fashion designers about to enter the industry today?
Vivienne: Fashion design is hard work and not glamorous. One needs to learn and be observant. Be innovative and creative!
The Seneca Fashion Resource is the grateful recipient of over 275 of Vivienne’s unique knitwear designs. In addition to the garments Vivienne has donated each pattern for her hand-knitted pieces. This provides a unique research opportunity for fashion scholars and particularly those with a love knitwear.