The Cellist & my Viyella Robe

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Photographs — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

Viyella is a blend of wool and cotton first woven in 1893 in England, and soon to be the “first branded fabric in the world”.It was made of 55 percent merino wool and 45 percent cotton in a twill weave, developed by James and Robert Sissons of William Hollins & Co, spinners and hosiers. The brand name, first registered as a trademark in 1894, and registered in the United States in 1907, soon covered not only the original fabric, to be sold by the yard (piece goods), but also clothing. At first this was made by separate businesses, but it was not long before Hollins started producing their own clothes and offering franchises to manufacturers who would use the Viyella label. Following increasing emphasis on garment manufacture over the years, Viyella is now a fashion brand for clothes and home furnishings made of a variety of fabrics. The original wool/cotton blend is no longer on sale.


Perhaps some 30 years ago, I purchased a lovely robe (are only terry cloth bathrobes called that?) at the Hudson’s Bay Company. I thought that I would look more manly for my Rosemary. She didn’t seem to notice so it occupied a dark corner of my closet. Sometimes in the winter I would take it out and wear it. It is now in a hook behind the door to my little Kits studio. Why is it there? Quite a few women that come to my studio shed most of what they are wearing. If they have to refresh their makeup or whatever I have a narrow full-length mirror in the other half of my garage that houses my office. I hand the robe to the woman in question so she can walk over to the mirror.

For me there is something special in seeing a woman wearing a man’s article of clothing. In the picture here that’s cellist Juliana Soltis.




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Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at:

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