Ruth Tarvydas Collection
Through her designs Ruth Tarvydas showcased Western Australia to the world, garnering both national and international recognition throughout her 46-year career.
Born in Germany to Lithuanian parents, Tarvydas emigrated to Perth with her family as a young child. Her personal aesthetic strongly influenced her designs. While working as a legal secretary she began making her own clothing. Her style was risqué and sexy and unlike anything available in Perth. Interest in her style saw her establish the label ‘Ruta’. Then, in 1968 while their parents were overseas, Tarvydas, with the help of brother Harvey, opened the first boutique to cater to a youth demographic. This was a major shift in the way that young people consumed fashion. For many Perth teenagers Tarvydas’ boutique would have been their first opportunity to purchase, rather than sew the latest fashion. By producing small garment runs from her independent studio she was able to respond to the market. The adoption of technological advances in synthetic fabrics helped keep prices down.
Tarvydas’ innovation continued, and in 1980 she became the first Australian to export designs internationally. By the 2000s her designs were sold in 170 outlets across 16 countries, including Selfridges in London and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. Tarvydas dressed numerous celebrity clients throughout her career, including familiar names such as Emma Watson, Delta Goodrem, Jennifer Hawkins, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian. Famously, Tarvydas dressed Rebecca Twigley (now Judd) for the Brownlow Medal ceremony in 2004 in what became known as ‘that red dress’.
Her career paralleled the growing confidence of the Australian fashion industry. Most importantly, her decision to remain in Perth while running an international business paved the way for successive designers to follow suit. Her business facilitated an industry for fashion in Western Australia, with manufacturers, photographers, make-up artists, and models all benefiting from her foresight.
Through a strong relationship with the Tarvydas family, the Western Australian Museum has acquired thirty-five outstanding pieces. These garments represent her career, her impact on the fashion industry, and contribution to Western Australia. This collection is of national significance and is the largest and most comprehensive collection of Ruth Tarvydas designs in a museum.
Acquiring and working on the Ruth Tarvydas collection has been made possible thanks to generous donors working together with the Foundation for the WA Museum.