Vivian Chan Shaw has been an enduring figure in Australian fashion for over 30 years and has, in an industry renowned for its trend driven volatility, an extraordinarily loyal local and international clientele. This collection of outfits were designed by Vivian Chan Shaw and made in her workrooms in Sydney between 1973 and 2002. They reflect the evolution of her distinctive design signature from appliquéd jersey pieces and funky youth orientated knits to the sophisticated hand-loomed knitwear she is best known for.
Chan Shaw has created a signature style which surpasses seasonal trends and uses the knitting medium in an innovative and experimental way to create clothing that fits and flatters a wide range of figure and age groups, is comfortable to wear and easy to wash, and packs 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 applique 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.