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(Vancouver, BC)—Art imitates life and fashion imitates art as Dahlia Drive takes on Matisse during the Vancouver Art Gallery exhibit- “Collecting Matisse and the Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore” which runs from May 26- September 30, 2012.

Designer Wendy Van Riesen looked at the 27 signature works by Matisse in the exhibit but one piece in particular inspired her. “Striped Robe, Fruit, and Anemones” became the masterpiece that will decorate her new hand painted kimonos (pictured left) that will be sold exclusively at the Art Gallery Store.

“The Cone Sister’s collection includes many textiles and many painting of ornate textiles so I was delighted when I was asked to create a product,” explains Wendy. “Now, after you see the exhibit, the kimono will allow you to walk away as a Matisse canvas!”

Working in the Japanese flattened perspective called ukiyo-e, the kimonos celebrate Matisse and this style of art as well as showcasing Wendy’s individual talent through her one-of-a-kind Japanese-inspired kimonos that are sewn together from recycled scarves and curtains (pictured below).

Dahlia Drive is excited to return to the Art Gallery Store after a successful collection of slip dresses inspired by the Leonard da Vinci exhibit. The return invite to the Art Gallery Store recognizes Wendy’s ability to translate classic art (whether from the Renaissance or modern art) into wearable and beautiful fashion.

For more information about Dahlia Drive please visit
For more information about the exhibit please visit

For all media inquiries please contact:
Sarah Murray, Fashion Capsule Communications + Style Lounge
t: 604-418-5436

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Fashion and accessories from Dahlia Drive on Shaw TV’s entertainment talk show Urban Rush with hosts Fiona Forbes & Michael Eckford.

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The Vancouver Sun

Wendy Van Riesen, the designer behind Dahlia Drive, has a fascination with the subversive, the secretive and the nostalgic.

Van Riesen takes old slips and regenerates them using silkscreening, hand-painting and heat-setting techniques. She turns the slips into dresses to be worn on top of other slips. Her muse is Leonardo da Vinci, whose appreciation of the human form and endless curiosity inspire her.

Many of the Dahlia Drive designs incorporate da Vinci drawings, so that a slip may have the intestines or skeleton subtly applied to the fabric.

“At first you think it is lace, but then you look more closely and it’s the intestines,” she says, adding that she loves the subversive nature of her designs.

“I’ve got the insides of our bodies on a slip which is under the clothing and now we are wearing the under, over.”

Van Riesen also loves the way slips flatter the female form.

“Slips are secretive. They were made to not be seen and so they are completely form-fitting. As a result they look beautiful on women.”

Van Riesen developed a layering process that begins with brushing dye on to a piece of drafting paper. After that dries, she paints a design on top. When that dries, she’ll screen on an image of da Vinci or a blown-up image of the lace on her grandmother’s tablecloth using thickened dye. Then she attaches the paper to the slip and heat sets it in.

Her interest in vintage has more to do with a love of history and good memories than with sustainability, but her pieces are sustainable, as an added bonus.

Dahlia Drive’s da Vinci motifs are featured at the Vancouver Art Gallery gift shop as part of its da Vinci exhibit, Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man. For the exhibit, she also put some images onT-shirts. They will be sold there until May.

Van Riesen took a few minutes to answer Five Questions:

1. Briefly describe your creations.
I rework discarded garments and fabrics with dye, cutting and piecing, mending, embellishing, printing and/or hand painting.

Each piece begins with the history of the material used; stains are over stained, holes become featured embellishments, silk is treated differently than polyester or nylon or cotton. Garments like slips become a canvas for anatomical images and textures which echo those forms. Some slips and most men’s shirts and sheer curtains are buried with rust to stain gate patterns (another lacy, bone/like pattern evoking structure, protection, portholes) then over-dyed and printed.

In these processes, the sculpture itself is surface designed as a three-dimensional form rather than traditional fashion manufacturing, which creates two-dimensional yardage and then cuts and sews it to fit the sculpture (body) form.

The result is a garment informed and inspired by the garment and material and therefore is truly a one-of-a-kind piece. This is a vastly different way of looking at fashion. Rather than looking outside for inspiration to create a new line on a pristine blank canvas, the history of the canvas inspires and leads the creative path or direction. This concept is more sustainable.

2. What is your inspiration?
Picasso, Paul Klee, Leonardo, Chagall, memory, history, parenting and the challenge of being content with what I have.

3. What is your price range?

4. Where can I buy your designs?
Planet Claire, Starfire Gallery, online, Tutta Mia, call me or come to my studio (604-789-5848)

5. Do any celebrities wear them?
Ruth Fluevog has a number of pieces.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

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Last season the style mavens introduced us to rock n’ roll acid tones for every occasion in fuchsia, acid yellows, greens, and electric blue. The opportunity to jump on this luminous bandwagon now lies in the fun and funky spring collection from Dahlia Drive. Known and sourced for her popular “Skelly” dresses, Wendy, the designer behind Dahlia Drive, has introduced a flamboyant palette of colours and flower motifs for a new twist on her fabulous creations.

Unlike most designers who start with a fabric and use it as inspiration to create a garment, Wendy takes an existing dress or slip that has been pre-loved and allows it to inspire her. These pieces become the canvas for her creations; each one taking on its own individual personality and flare with no two pieces ever being the same. Not only are they original, but due to the pre-loved nature of the slips and the use of natural dyes like indigo, they are hip and eco friendly without looking “Green”.

For this season the collection will incorporate more designs that have been printed with disperse dyes, a technique which lends itself to a layering of images and textures; defiantly different to the screen printing method that was so popular in previous collections. Hand painted designs, like roses and lotuses, are painted or printed on to the garment enhancing it with bright images that do not change the feel or look of the soft fabric. The design may not end there; screen prints of images or words of wisdom may be added, like lyrics to your life.

These easy spring frocks are designed to compliment your life; wear them poolside, to your next rock concert or for everyday affairs. They pack light, are machine washable and inject a major fuse of colour that is sure to get you noticed.

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One North Vancouver designer says she’s noticing a growing environmental interest among consumers. Wendy Van Riesen line, Dahlia Drive, recycles previously worn slips and men’s shirt. She paints designs onto paper and then presses them onto the clothing. The process not only uses a small amount of water — she can complete 10 slips in one washer load — but the printing paper can be reused.

“I do see part of my job as educating,” she says.

Van Riesen recently completed a line of T-shirt for the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Leonardo da Vinci exhibit, one of which was bought by the president of Finland.

It’s always the design that first attracts the customer, but the environmentally friendly aspect is a winning bonus, Van Riesen says. Although she was originally drawn to used slips because of the stories and character which accompanies the clothing, working with what you’re given also keeps the environment in mind, Van Riesen says.

“Dahlia Drive’s slogan is ‘Resurrecting the fashion wasteland,’” she notes.

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She was always the artsy type, balancing her formal training as an actress and 20 years work onstage and in film, with courses in pottery, quilt making, weaving and experimentation with natural dyes. “I made clothes, toys, pillows and blankets recreationally and I received my teaching certificate at S.F.U. to teach acting and knitting” says Wendy.

In 2001, Wendy won a Jessie Award for Best Actress in a pertinent human drama by local playwright.  “Beyond the honour of the award, I was very honoured to be a part of a wonderful group of people in telling an important story.  This kind of fulfillment had been rare in my career and I realized that I wanted to pursue an art form in which I had more control over the stories being told; stories that reveal our connections to the earth, stories that allow us to see old things in new interconnected ways”.  At 48 it was time for Wendy to be another kind of artist.

As an environmentally conscious person Wendy decided she wanted to manipulate recycled garments, fabrics and industrial materials into renewed forms. But before jumping head first she decided to apply to Capilano College in Vancouver for formal training and was accepted into the Textile Program in fall of 2003. Upon graduation she was now 50 years old and she decided to use her newly acquired skills to start Dahlia Drive. Unlike most designers who start with a fabric and use it as inspiration to create a garment, Wendy takes an existing dress or slip that has been pre-loved and allows it to inspire her. These pieces become the canvas for her creations; each one taking on its own individual personality and flare, with no two pieces ever being the same. By using screen printing, dying techniques and crafty applications of lace or ribbon, she creates one of a kind dresses fit for any occasion.

Now, 5 years later Wendy is well known in the Vancouver designer circuit and has inspired others to take a more eco-friendly approach to purchasing clothing. She has also branched out into revamping men’s shirts; the most common method of reinventing them requiring the use of indigo dye and then wrapping them in rusty objects and burying them in her garden (see shirt to the left in picture). Wendy attends many shows in the Vancouver area to sell her pieces but you can also order your own custom piece from her online at

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Imagine Susan Sarandon and Brooke Shields in Babyface clad in heat soaked, antique shaded, sheer and slinky slips. Add a dose of Avril Lavigne’s punk princess pink with skull and cross bone accessories and you have an idea of the beauty, sexiness, and rock ‘n roll sensibility of Dahlia Drive.

Designer Wendy Van Riesen uses antique slips to make one-of-a-kind dresses that peel back the layers of femininity. The soft edges of lace and sweetheart necklines are dyed and silk screened with stark white pelvis and back bones. It’s her signature motif that shows a woman’s beauty from the inside out, literally.

“I’m focused on resurrecting the fashion wasteland,” says Wendy. “There are so many clothes in this world that even charity shops need to sell their excesses. I take those unwanted pieces and find their story.”

The story may include cigarette burns (darling not in bed), rust stains, and rips. These become elements of beauty under the workmanship of Wendy. She builds on the rust, burying the material under bed springs in her backyard and then layering colours and graphics. Rips and burns are stitched together to give a texture to the material or covered over with appliqués. Eventually each resurrected slip has a Dahlia Drive story and it’s one that everyone will want to hear.

For fall the slips can embrace ballet sweetness with leg warmers and a soft cropped wrap sweater or the military trend by layering sharp edged blazers with rough hewn scarves, opaque tights, and heavy boots. Always art inspired, Dahlia Drive resurrects the fashion wasteland no matter the season.

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(Aug 9, 2007) What to do with all those unmentionables that never see the light of day? Well turn them into art, of course! That’s the general concept behind Wendy van Riesen’s Vancouver-based clothing line, Dahlia Drive. Named after the flower of the same name, as well as the street she grew up on, Dahlia Drive transforms forgotten vintage slips into one-of-a-kind pieces. Found items often retain their original shape and cut, but Wendy adds unique dyes and prints to transform these seemingly basic items into eye-catching fashion statements.

Not content with simply making dashing garments for women of all shapes and sizes to wear, Wendy also uses her stylish skills to participate in charity events. She has collaborated twice with Rose Charities, a non-profit which provides education, counseling, emergency relief, medical care and surgeries to impoverished areas all over the world. Most recently, Wendy teamed up with Vancouver’s A Loving Spoonful, which provides free, nutritious meals to those living with HIV in the area. For each of these involvements, Wendy has created truly limited edition items, which were auctioned to raise thousands for these worthwhile organizations.

Her background in theater serves as a constant inspiration while providing a hands-on approach to transforming the abstract into concrete designs. Leonardo da Vinci, one of her “magnificent” influences would be proud. She uses the Dali Lama’s “we’re here to help” motto as a symbol for the Dahlia Drive line — being gentle on the earth yet celebrating the beauty of the female form. Riesen also uses images of bones and organs as a testament to the flesh and blood living beneath her clolthes. Of course, nature makes an appearance in the form of leaves, trees, and flower buds. No matter your personal taste, finding a Dahlia Drive slip that is flattering for your figure and wardrobe is easy and affordable.

Available at select stores and markets in Vancouver, you can also purchase the Dahlia Drive collection via the company’s website. Within the online catalog, you will find a range of slips available in a variety of shapes and styles, accompanied by helpful visuals and measurements. Scroll down and you will find a gallery of previously sold slips, as well as pictures of proud women wearing their purchased creations. From age twenty to seventy, you will find all types of ladies embracing their natural beauty and inner confidence, thanks to their Dahlia Drive garments.

Affordable art, integrity, vision, curves, and the environment are all rolled into one satiny smooth creation, each as unique as the woman wearing it– Dahlia Drive embodies it all beautifully.

Victoria Everman is a freelance writer, model, on-camera personality and founder of the San Francisco Craft Mafia.