A little like Luly on a budget or Mad Men come to life, Vian Hunter House of Fashion, a dress shop full of locally and regionally made cocktail wear and daytime separates, opened on Friday in Madison Valley.
Here, we chat with Vian, the line’s designer, about the store, the look, and her recent arrival in our fair city.
Wear What When: While all designers have their differences, there is something about you that’s unique. Something that sets you apart from the last few emerging designers that I’ve interviewed on this blog (here and here) -
Vian Hunter: Fashion is a second career, maybe a third. I worked in retail, published a music magazine, and loved being a stay at home mom. Then, in 2002, exactly 20 years after graduating from high school I decided to get the fashion design degree that I always wanted.
WWW: Most but definitely not all of your pieces have vintage-inspired lines, and while many designers draw from the past, you do so in a more literal and yet also less ironic way. Perhaps this comes from your experience in life; you are the woman who’s throwing a party and looking for the perfect nipped waist hostess dress.
VN: There is no doubt that experience is on my side. If I had graduated from design school at age 20, I would not have known what to do with myself. Having been a business owner and mom, I knew instinctively what to do. It’s all about updating the classic and glamorous designs of the 50s and 60s.
WWW: Until recently, you’ve operated your design studio in the Bay Area. When and why Seattle and how do you think things will change for you here?
VH: We moved here last summer. We wanted a cosmopolitan city with a few sports teams.
The first item I sold in Seattle was a sequin skirt lined in silk charmeuse. I’m not counting on changing my designs or fabrics for Seattle. Women love silk. Women love fine wool and they appreciate my European brocades and classic designs.
WWW: What are the hallmarks of your line? Your signatures?
VN: I’m known for my coats so I’ll continue to expand that collection. So far the coats, vintage clothes, and separates have done the best but women are always looking for that one go-to dress, so I’ll always have that.
WWW: If you could pick just one of the following women to stroll into your shop on a sleepy Monday morning, who would it be and how would you dress her? Angelina Jolie, Katie Cruise, or Michelle Obama.
VN: Are you kidding?! Michelle Obama is my dream client. Her style is the Vian Hunter style and you bet I’ll be sending her stylists some sketches.
WWW: Your collection seems heavy on dresses, lighter on pants. What do you wear on a daily basis and are you focused on women returning to skirts and dresses, ala Diane von Furstenberg’s and her 70s wrap dress?
VN: I love wearing our Sue or Lana coat with jeans and the silk charmeuse top or cotton t-shirt that we carry. That’s my uniform these days. I have some key pants in my collection that sell very well. One is a pencil pant in Italian Faille that I carry year round, called "Paige". For spring it will be in stretch denim as well. I also have a gorgeous stretch denim trouser for spring with a great gold 1960’s style button.
WWW: If you could sneak into any designer’s studio and study his or her secrets, whose would you pick?
VN: John Galliano is my icon. I’ve always said I’d love to be a fly on the wall in his workroom. How he makes patterns for those gowns, I have no idea.
More on new Madison Valley shops here