Who: Ivy Hassard, née Pearce (1914–1998).
What: A pioneering designer and businesswoman who contributed to the image of Surfers Paradise as a sophisticated resort destination through her fashion and beauty boutiques.
Where: Hassard operated several businesses in Surfers Paradise. Her first, the Exclusive Salon, was located on the Gold Coast Highway. During a hiatus from fashion, she opened beauty salon Jolie Madame, in Surfers Paradise’s Blue Arcade. She later re-opened a fashion boutique under her own name on the Pacific Highway.
When: Hassard’s career in fashion spanned a time of immense change. She began working in 1946, just as Dior’s ‘New Look’ was about to set the international fashion world alight. Hassard continued to design until at least the late 1970s, when women’s wardrobes were decidedly less structured and overtly feminine. She constantly refined and adapted her aesthetic throughout this three decade period in order to create clothes women wanted to wear.
Why: Gold Coast fashion in the mid-20th century was dominated by two figures: Ivy Hassard and Paula Stafford. However, unlike her contemporary Paula Stafford, Ivy Hassard is no longer a household name. Yet in her day she greatly influenced the Queensland fashion scene with her trend-setting boutiques and stylish designs.
But before she made her mark on the fashion world as an accomplished entrepreneur and designer, Hassard had already lived life to the full as a formidable aviatrix and talented musical performer.
Growing up in Ipswich, Ivy Pearce got a taste for running a business from a young age by observing her parents success as hard-working hoteliers. When she was only sixteen, she began taking plane lessons, and showed prodigious talent for aerobatic flying. Pearce obtained her pilot’s licence at age eighteen and went on to be a well-known Australian aviatrix, noted for her abilities as well as her stylish appearance.
In those days she often flew over Surfers Paradise, and holidayed there with friends. In 1937, she married a fellow pilot, Jason Hassard, and they had three children, Jason, Darryl, and Laurene. During this time, Ivy Hassard utilised her talents as a musician, working as a concert pianist.
In 1946, they moved to Surfers Paradise, and by 1947 Ivy Hassard began her first fashion business—the Exclusive Frock Salon—and in doing so paved the way for Surfers Paradise as a fashion destination. It was two years before Paula Stafford would make her own mark on the local fashion scene with her bikini designs. But while Stafford was a savvy operator who understood the power of a good product, Hassard developed a sophisticated aesthetic across daywear and eveningwear, and soon counted many Sydney and Melbourne women among her clients. Word of her elegant designs spread quickly and she became an integral part of the increasingly cosmopolitan Surfers Paradise scene. In 1954, she staged the first ever fashion show on the Gold Coast, held at the Surfers Paradise hotel.
The Courier Mail covered the parade, recognising its importance for the development of the local fashion industry. Their article made the claim that Hassard, along with collaborating designer, John Dolby, “will make a bid to establish Surfers Paradise as the beach fashion centre for Australia — as Capri is for the Mediterranean”1. Hassard’s glamorous designs were shown on a group of young Sydney models, including iconic Australian model June Dally-Watkins. Success was rapid for Hassard; in less than ten years she had become a fixture, not only on the Gold Coast, but within the Australian fashion field.
Hassard continued to host fashion parades. In 1958, one extravaganza held at the Surfers Paradise Hotel was aptly called ‘Evening in Capri.’ For the parade, Hassard designed a large suite of outfits, including beachwear, daywear, and eveningwear. Her new venture, Jolie Madame beauty salon, is also mentioned in coverage of the parade as being responsible for the models’ hair and make-up.
Always an astute businesswoman, by late 1958 Hassard turned her full attention to the Jolie Madame salon and the growing beauty industry. She trained as a hairdresser and researched the best beauty products. She sold the Exclusive Salon to another Gold Coast businesswoman known simply as ‘Helene’. But while Hassard may have put fashion on the backburner to start her beauty business, she understood the importance of carrying on the stylish brand image she had cultivated during her years in fashion. Jolie Madame was elegantly fitted out with contemporary ‘atomic’ furniture, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and striking wallpaper.
A photograph of Ivy Hassard at Jolie Madame with internationally-renowned Parisian beautician, Madame Payot, shows off the charming interior design. Hassard, in a chic floral dress and white pumps, cuts a very fashionable figure, likely wearing her own designs.
Ivy Hassard returned to fashion in the 1960s, opening a new eponymous boutique in 1964 on the Gold Coast Highway. Her glamorous daughter, Laurene, became her most regular model, appearing in numerous newspaper and magazine spreads. Laurene remembers that her mother “employed a staff of around 20 female seamstresses” and that many of her garments featured labour-intensive handwork techniques.2
In the 1960s and 70s, Ivy Hassard won two coveted ‘Supreme Awards’ at the Chevron Hotel’s prestigious fashion event ‘Concours d’Elegance’, which showcased garments designed to match the style and colour of a luxury car.
Hassard’s designs evolved with the times. Clippings held in the John Oxley Library from the 1960s and 70s reveal that Hassard’s work continued to look modern, with sleek monochromatic dresses, capes, and pants reflecting the influence of a younger market on the fashion industry. Hassard kept designing until at least her mid-sixties, assisted by her daughter Laurene. After retiring, she remained an active member of the community, turning her attention to fundraising for charities.
In 1997, Ivy Hassard’s contribution to the Gold Coast was commemorated with the naming of Hassard Place. When she passed away the following year, floral tributes adorned the prime corner of real estate in central Surfers Paradise.
- 1927 – 1998. Ivy Pearce Hassard Photographs and Papers (28860). John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
- 1954 ‘QUEENSLANDERS BID TO MAKE SURFERS’ PARADISE THE CAPRI OF AUSTRALIA.’, The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), 29 July, p. 9, viewed 28 January, 2014, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50599993
- 1954 ‘ Paradise Tail Dress At Glamour Parade.’ South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus (NSW : 1900 – 1954), 23 August, p 1. Viewed 9 January 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article142730524
- 1989. ‘A High Flyer Defies Years.’ Gold Coast Bulletin, 14 December. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
- Dwyer, N. 1998. ‘But Spirit Lives On’. Gold Coast Bulletin. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
- Gundi, N. 2012. ‘What’s in a Name: Hassard Place’. ABC Gold Coast. http://blogs.abc.net.au/queensland/2012/08/whats-in-a-name-hassard-place.html?site=goldcoast&program=gold_coast_drive
- Mackenzie, C. 1993. ‘Ivy’s brilliant career’. Gold Coast Bulletin, 7 December, p. 39. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.