Fashion designer Ruth Tarvydas during the ABC documentary Boomtown. Picture: supplied by ABC Source: Supplied
REBECCA Judd has led tributes to Ruth Tarvydas, as the fashion industry comes to grips with her sudden death yesterday.
Ms Tarvydas, who was aged in her late 60s, was found dead on the street outside her East Perth apartment at about 8am yesterday morning.
WA Police said a report would be prepared for the coroner.
The Australian and global fashion world is reeling after the shock death of the Perth fashion icon.
Ms Tarvydas was best remembered for designing Rebecca Judd’s famous red dress that she wore to the 2004 Brownlow Medal beside now-husband and AFL footballer Chris Judd.
Mrs Judd paid tribute on social media, saying: “you changed my life.”
Born in Lithuania, Ms Tarvydas arrived in Fremantle as a two-year-old with her family, after fleeing post-WWII Germany.
A fashion icon who has been dressing models and celebrities for decades, Ms Tarvydas opened her first boutique in Perth in the 1960s.
She built a global fashion empire that included boutiques in Paris, Malaysia and Sydney.
Her fortunes took a devastating turn last year when her company, RTI, was liquidated, just 12 months after she was forced to close the doors of her high-profile King Street boutique.
She maintained a store in Claremont thanks to the generosity of landlord John Bond.
Mr Bond today said he was deeply shocked and saddened at the loss of Ms Tarvydas.
“She was and remains a founder of high end fashion within Western Australia, and
he work has been embraced worldwide,” he said
“I know that over the past few years Ruth has been under enormous economic pressure, and
suffered a huge blow at having to close her King Street store.
“Nevertheless she worked really hard to solve her financial issues and whenever she came to seek my advice or update me on her plans (including the Paris Fashion Show in July), she was full of determination and always maintained a positive attitude.
“Ruth lived her life inspiring all those around her and will be greatly missed within Western
Australia’s fashion industry. I offer my condolences and support to all of Ruth’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
Ms Tarvydas’ business partner Jeremy Balius spoke to TV crews outside the designer’s apartment block today.
“When I spoke with her yesterday we laughed and talked at length about what the future holds and the bright horizon we could see,” he said
“Our final words to each other were that we felt blessed to have each other in our lives. I’m thankful of the time we had together.”
The Sunday Times reported in December that Ms Tarvydas owed almost $1 million to ANZ bank over the collapse of her business.
A documentary looking at the lives of several prominent West Australians, Boomtown, aired on ABC TV last year and featured Tarvydas’ during her lowest moment when her King Street street was liquidated.
Today series producer Roz Silvestrin said: “Everyone at Electric Pictures who tailed her for a year to film her during her highs and lows is shell shocked.
“Ruth was one of the most talented and generous and caring people we have ever worked with. She was very brave in allowing us to film, not just the highlights in that year but also the lows and challenges and troubles that beset the business.
“At all times she was dignified and very generous and she will be missed. She was such a positive person, even when the chips were down she always said “we’ll come out of this.” She was such a survivor.”
At the time, Ms Tarvydas told The Sunday Times that she hoped the documentary would show her glamorous gowns to a new audience, and encourage new buyers to shell out for a $1000 dress.
Telstra Perth Fashion Festival director Mariella Harvey-Hanrahan said it was a “very sad day for fashion”.
In a statement, Ms Harvey-Hanrahan asked for Ms Tarvydas’ friends and family to be given the privacy to grieve.
“Ruth was a close friend, a hallmark WA designer and aside from this, had the most beautiful genuine heart,” she said.
“Her work will be remembered, as well as her shining personality, and she will be sorely missed by her family and friends, Western Australia and the Festival team.”
Christine Fox, head of Vivien’s model management in Perth, said: “Ruth was one hip, groovy and sexy woman. I loved her eccentricities, her tenacity and her style.
She definitely lit up a room! She was always very encouraging and supportive to me during my career and I will never forget that. Rest in peace beautiful lady. You will be sadly missed.”
Melanie Greensmith, of fashion label Wheels & Dollbaby, said: “Ruth was cool. No one could rock a Luftwaffe captain’s hat quite like her. She was an original.”
Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi said: “She was a Perth treasure.
“Every woman that’s ever worn a Tarvydas gown has felt like a million dollars.
“And I’m sure she still had a lot of designs still in her.
“It is a tragic loss for the industry, for our city and for everyone that knows her.”
Former perth model and friend of Ruth’s for four decades said: “No words can describe it. Ruth was so much more than the clothes and the shows that she was loved for. A passionate and compassionate loving soul. Ruth and Harvey together forever."
Marcia Ball, who runs popular fashion blog Style Voyeur, said she was devastated by Ms Tarvydas’ death.
“She was just such a shining light and such a beautiful person,’’ a distraught Ms Ball said.
“It’s quite hard for the industry. I don’t know why it keeps happening to fashion people at the moment.”
The Perth tragedy comes two months after the death of New York fashion designer L’Wren Scott, whose label hit similarly hard times.
Winthrop Professor Ted Snell, who was director of John Curtin Gallery at Curtin University when her 40-year retrospective exhibition, House of Tarvydas was held in August, 2008, said:
“I think we have lost a very significant WA designer. She was someone who took WA fashion to an international audience very early on. She was showing in London in the sixties at the height Carnaby Street. She made an excellent contribution very early on.”
Denise Cheir, head of public relations at Crown said: “I think one of fashion’s most unique and interesting designers has been lost. She lit a beautiful path wherever she trod.”
Nine News reporter Jerrie Demasi said: “I am just overwhelmed with sadness. Ruth was one of the most kind and gentle souls I have ever known.
“She had this wonderfully bohemian outlook on life that touched so many people. This world isn’t built for that kind of sensitivity. I truly hope she has found peace.”
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