It is always good to celebrate a successful Wellington business. Vance Vivian, Wellington’s very own top-of-the-range specialty men’s clothing store, has just turned 90. The company is still going strong, setting the standards for sharp suits and other fine male fashion.
The firm was begun by George Vance and Harold Vivian in 1924. Vivian was bought out in the 1930s and since then the business has stayed in the Vance family. It is now owned and operated by the third-generation Vance brothers, Robert and Hamish.
The original store was up on the corner of Manners and Cuba streets, about where Banks Shoe Shop is now. Very soon, a second shop was opened at the bottom end of Lambton Quay and, later, there were Vance Vivian shops in the Hutt, Masterton, Christchurch and Auckland. Nowadays, the business is concentrated on the Lambton Quay shop, now at the top end of the road opposite Cable Car Lane.
It was not easy choosing the feature photograph — not because of the lack of them, but because there were so many choices. Most are from the archives of K E Niven and Company, one of Wellington’s leading commercial photography firms during the 20th century. Vance Vivian was a client and there are many great shots showing the history of high-end men’s fashion. (You can see them all on the National Library website — just type in ‘Vance Vivian’.)
In the end I settled on these three images from around 1960. They are out-takes from some intensive summer days of fashion photography around well-known Wellington landmarks. At the top left our model contemplates art at the old Dominion Museum and National Art Gallery (now Massey University) on Buckle Street. He is roughing it a bit in the next shot, down at the Evans Bay boatyard. My favourite, though, is that elegant couple and their glamorous Jaguar looking out over Oriental Bay from Clifton Terrace.