Chinese-American designer Vivienne Tam is all about embracing her traditional Asian roots while incorporating a contemporary American twist into her designs in her Fall 2011 collection. Tam was born in China but moved to New York City 30 years ago in order to pursue her fashion dreams, selling “her first designs out of a duffel bag to Henri Bendel and a handful of Manhattan boutiques," Tam told Uinterview in an exclusive video interview. This ambition and drive has led her label to become a staple among the fashion elite; her line currently generates $62 million a year in revenue from her stores in New York, Hong Kong and Japan.
In our interview, the designer talks about creating pieces that infuse elements of both the East and West. She cites Chinese Opera as the inspiration for her Fall 2011 collection, explaining the difficulties of creating pieces that are rich and opulent while still being appropriate to wear during the day. So what does Tam want to wear? "If the pieces are special enough, then I'll wear that," she told Uinterview. "So my style is that I would love to wear something that's really special. I like to stand out when I wear it. When I grew up, I used to make all my own clothes by myself, and I wanted to look outstanding. I have the only piece. I make all my own clothes myself – there's only one piece in the world. That's how I started my career. It's not that I wanted to stand out in a crowd, but I love when people say, 'I love what you are wearing.' I feel so much joy when people say, 'I love what you are wearing.' "
Learm more on Vivienne Tam in our exclusive video interview below as part of a series of interviews on Defining Style presented by Effen Vodka.
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- Q: Hi, Vivienne, this is Kimberly from Florida, what is the inspiration for your new fall line? - kimberly c
- A: The inspiration is about Chinese opera. I know Chinese opera, I grew up with Chinese opera since I was very young. I love the costumes and the texture of the costumes and patterns are so beautiful. Every time I look at them I think about how I'm going to interpret them into modern day wear that everybody will love to have that because it's a Chinese-inspired costume. But it's not costume – it's day wear. It's a challenge to do it, but I think this season I managed to do it like those capes from the costumes. The embroideries they are so beautiful they are so abstract.
- Q: Hi, Vivienne, this is Rachel from Birmingham. What's it like preparing for your New York fashion show? Do you ever have a moment of panic? - Uinterview User
- A: In the beginning, I thought, 'Oh, I have a lot finished already. But then when you try to look at the individual pieces – how to make it more interesting, more elaborate. Day wear but at the same time more opulent, more richness. Then you start to add on things – layer it together. Then you think, 'Oh my god, it's not enough. You are trying to figure out how to make each individual piece more beautiful. It's quite some work.
- Q: Hi, Vivienne, this is Scott from Dayton. How would you define your sense of style? - Scott Deady
- A: My sense of style? I think it's important that I like to wear clothes, not necessarily fashion. If the pieces are special enough, then I'll wear that. So my style is that I would love to wear something that's really special. I like to stand out when I wear it. When I grew up, I used to make all my own clothes by myself, and I wanted to look outstanding. I have the only piece. I make all my own clothes myself – there's only one piece in the world. That's how I started my career. It's not that I wanted to stand out in a crowd, but I love when people say, 'I love what you are wearing.' I feel so much joy when people say, 'I love what you are wearing.'
- Q: Hi, Vivienne, this is Raven from San Francisco. When you design, who do you imagine wearing your clothing? - Raven Keller
- A: People always ask, 'Do you have a muse?' I say, 'Myself!' When I dress, I dress myself and make sure it looks good. If I look good, that means other women will look good. That's a very simple thing!
- Q: Thanks! Please tell us about one of the strangest or most unique things that has inspired one of your designs. - Raven Keller
- A: Every collection, there is a big inspiration for me. One season I went to Yunnan, [China]. I did a male collection inspired by minority Chinese communities. In Yunnan, they have 24 groups of minority Chinese living there. Some of them are dying cultures. All the young generation not wearing the costume any more. I'm trying to reinstate them and bring them into modern settings. For me it's a challenge, if I can help the culture that is fading like these minority Chinese culture – I hope that I will be able to help them.
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