The WA fashion community is mourning the death of iconic Perth designer Ruth Tarvydas, who was found dead at her East Perth home yesterday.
Tarvydas, 66, known for her glamorous evening gowns, had been fighting to resurrect her fashion empire under extreme financial pressure but, despite positive signs for the future, friends say she was beaten by debts.
Emergency services were called to Tarvydas' apartment block early yesterday amid concerns for her welfare, but she was found dead. There were no suspicious circumstances.
It is understood Tarvydas' shock death came less than 24 hours after she failed to meet a deadline to repay a debt of $100,000 to ANZ Banking Group, which launched legal action against her last year.
Tarvydas was forced to close her King Street store in October 2012 because of debts of $1 million, and administrators were appointed to her company RTI (WA) Pty Ltd. But in December that year, she opened a new store in Claremont's Times Square precinct with the support of businessman John Bond and was preparing to show at Paris Fashion Week - a lifelong dream - at the time of her death.
Mr Bond said yesterday he was "deeply shocked and saddened".
"Whenever she came to seek my advice or update me on her plans she was full of determination and always maintained a positive attitude," he said.
"Ruth lived her life inspiring all those around her and will be greatly missed within WA's fashion industry."
Close friend Vlado Bosanac, who had been assisting Tarvydas in her international expansion, said he believed the debt was the "final straw".
"She was always upbeat and positive about the business and talking to people about her plans," he said.
"She was an enigma. We're talking about 46 years of design and never running out of ideas."
A representative for Tarvydas, Jeremy Balius, made a statement outside her East Perth home yesterday, describing his friend as a "true Australian icon".
"It is with deep sorrow we mourn the loss of our dear friend Ruth Tarvydas. The beauty she created and gave to our world through her fashion creations will last for ever," he said.
"It is with gratitude I say that no matter how far her success carried her out into the world she always came back to us in WA. Ruth was the embodiment of passion and strength and empowerment."
Mr Balius said that when he spoke to Tarvydas on Thursday the pair had "laughed and talked at length about what the future holds and the bright horizon we can see".
"Our final words to each other were that we felt blessed to have each other in our lives," he said.
“I am thankful for the time we had together. Please join me in remembering and celebrating the rich legacy of joy and beauty Ruth leaves us with.”
Tributes poured in from across the fashion world.
The Weekend West's social writer Di Bauwens said she was distraught at the loss of her "beautiful, generous and passionate friend".
"In spite of the extreme financial pressure Ruth has been under, she has been inspirational in her attempts to resurrect her fashion empire," she said.
"There have been many times she said to me she wondered where she got the strength to carry on.
"She was very tired but so hopeful she could turn things around.
"I shall miss her more than words can say."
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