Interview Prominent Asian Designer Vivienne Tam

Article by Alice Chin, Linda Nguyen
Photo by Rebecca Xu

The 247Features team recently visited designer Vivienne Tam at her showroom after Fashion Week and had a wonderful time chatting with the most successful Chinese designer. Vivienne talked about her newest collection, what she did on Chinese New Year and also gave some great advice for young designers.

We’re curious. How did you celebrate the Chinese New Year?
I had the best Chinese New Year. I celebrated with my F/W 2013 fashion show show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week!

How long does it take you to create your designs? How did you come up with the graphics?
It’s difficult to say how long it takes to make a dress. The lattice dress, which was one of my favorite pieces, took the longest to make, 2 – 3 days, but the creative process can take a few months. My favorite pop artist is Andy Warhol, so I was very influenced by the art, punk culture, and the pop art colors, red, black and white of that period.

What’s the meaning behind the graffiti prints of Mao’s writings and President Obama’s photo?
It’s a new era and government in China, an “Exciting Moment.” The images of Obama mixed with China creates an awakening and conversation, an open dialogue. A lot of love went into the collection. I loved using the Chinese characters ‘Mon sui’ or ‘Wan Sui’ (meaning 10,000 years or “Long Live”) pattern/print on the red & black dress.

How did you get involved with Save.Love.Give? Are there any other charities that are dear to you?
I have been working with technology for a while and wanted to give back for the Chinese New Year. Have you looked at the app? It’s a great way to avoid electronic waste, and use the money saved to micro-finance loans for those in need. I really like to work with charities that empower women. I will also be traveling to Japan to support the disaster relief.

Are there any celebrities that you would like to dress?
As a designer, I like to dress everybody.

How do you define your style?
When I first started, I designed my own clothes to look different and to dress myself. People would approach me and ask me what I was wearing. I’ve always loved dressing up and am my own muse. When I was younger, I would make my own outfits and made my own hair pieces and wore something different everyday.

How does living in NYC effect your designs?
New York City people are vibrant and multicultural. I get a great deal of my inspiration from going to art galleries and attending events.

What’s next for you?
A yoga collection is in the works and I’m working on an accessories collection to complete the look. I also have an exhibit with the Museum of Chinese in America “Front Row: Chinese American Designers” which opens on April 26th, 2013!

How does it feel like to be the most successful Chinese designer? Can you share advice for aspiring designers?
When I first started the Vivienne Tam brand, people did not think I would succeed using my name Vivienne Tam. There were no famous Chinese designers at that time. People in China were looking to the West for fashion. It was hard to convince people to buy my designs as a Chinese designer. But I wanted to express my love of Chinese culture and share it with the world. I use my designs as a bridge between the east to the west. Designers should be tuned to who they are and what they want to express. Don’t let others tell you what will work. Be true to yourself and you will succeed. You get the audience when you are pure. Do something with heart and soul and it will draw people’s attention.

About Vivienne Tam:
Vivienne Tam (譚燕玉) is a fashion designer based in New York City. She was born in Guangzhou, China and moved to Hong Kong at the age of three. Tam’s fashion brand “Vivienne Tam” is inspired by Chinese culture, design and modern fashion; East meets West. Vivienne Tam has become one of the 21st century’s most successful contemporary designers. For more: www.viviennetam.com

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