Vivienne Tam – Chinese-American Fashion Designer

“Vivienne Tam’s world is made up of Buddhas, mythical dragons, fierce tigers, chubby Chinese babies, sacred lotus flowers and Chairman Mao’s stern moon face decorate a vividly coloured landscape. Such Asian motifs are in her blood, and printing them on clingy stretch nylon netting has made Tam one of the decade’s most original and popular American fashion designers.” —Mimi Avins, Reporter The Los Angeles Times

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Vivienne Tam was born on 28 November 1957 in Guangzhou, China and moved to Hong Kong at the age of three. She graduated from Hong Kong Polytechnic University with a degree in Fashion Design. In 1981, she went to New York and eventually established her own fashion company East Wind Code as well as her fashion label named after her, Vivienne Tam in 1990.

Tam’s clothing was a hit with fashion-forward women, who liked its Asian influence. By combining culture, classic style, and an offbeat flair to her fashion design, Vivienne Tam has become one of the 21st century’s most successful contemporary designers. The key to her achievement is her ability to design with an eye for East meets West, an inspiration that comes from her current home, New York City, and her childhood home, Hong Kong.

12_135343_1By bringing these cultural inspirations together in her designs, she is able to design clothing of traditional elements with a modern edge. Her collections are perceived with the idea that each person’s personality will bring out different aspects from within each design.

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Tam’s collections were lively and awash in color, often mixing religious symbolism with Asian art, silver, red, and beautiful embroidery becoming her trademarks.

Designers often struggle initially to cultivate a distinct image, Tam’s line was quickly known for its East-meets-West polish. Her clean lines, Asian prints, rich colour sense, and facility with beading garnered critical success. It also allowed her to open boutiques from L.A. to Tokyo while placing her pieces in top stores and museum archives.

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Tam spent a month in Beijing and Shanghai to interview people for her first book, China Chic, which was published in 2000. Tam’s aim, was to show Chinese culture in a way that is not filtered through Western biases. “I wanted people to know not just cheongsam and chop suey and chopsticks, I wanted to go deeper.”

The square shape and red plastic binding of China Chic mimicked Mao’s famous “Little Red Book” of quotations, but Tam said that the overall design was simply following certain precepts of her culture. “Chinese cosmology is square, it’s very grounded.  Chinese characters are in a square form and so is the architecture. The [Forbidden] Palace is all square forms with symmetric placement of furniture. Everything comes in pairs and a square is totally balanced.”

In 2007, Tam launched both the contemporary and higher-up markets—Vivienne Tam Red and Vivienne Tam Jade, respectively.

In 2008, Hewlett-Packard and Tam have been working together to create the HP Vivienne Tam Special Edition notebook. And the first generation of HP Vivienne Tam Special Edition is launched.

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The notebook is gleaming red and bursting with peony flowers, a signature staple of Tam’s collection, on the lid. The peony design is then meticulously carried inside the notebook, under the keypad. The laptop also features a extra special enter key that bears the Chinese symbol for double happiness.

The notebook also features a complimentary embroidered storage sleeve that helps keep the exterior protected while being carried as a clutch.

medium_2845608492_2888a508ea_oThe “digital clutch” represents the first time a computer company has partnered with a fashion designer to create a notebook PC as well as have it debut at a fashion show. In addition to the design of the notebook, Tam worked with HP to design its accessories and packaging.

Tam’s unique talent for bringing Asian and American culture together in fashion attracts many to her East Wind Code shops in New York, Los Angeles, Japan, and Hong Kong. Clients who admire her elegant, unconventional style include movie stars and musicians.

2010 Vivienne Tam’s Spring Show

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Most designers would prefer not to have their collections reduced to a single word, but Vivienne Tam, who took a sole Chinese character as her leitmotif last season, was all about butterflies for spring.

Butterflies, in prints (both abstract and figurative) and appliqués, were to be seen on most everything in the show.

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In the Eastern culture, peony means prosperous, a symbol of wealth and happiness, while the layers of coating is like a flower to do with personal style to express themselves, and science and technology into the colourful life of the smart modern woman.

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Vivienne Tam with her latest 2nd generation HP netbook together with Senior VP Worldwide Marketing, HP Satjiv S. Chahil

HP and Vivienne Tam latest cooperation of product is the theme of “Butterfly Love (Butterfly Lovers)”, Vivienne Tam explained that this series is dominated by the traditional Chinese love story, “The Butterfly Lovers” was inspired by the beautiful butterfly accompanied by Champagne Gold Background

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The new look in digital clutch chic marries two cultures – fashion and technology – to reflect a transformative spirit and sophisticated lifestyle. It fuses high fashion, small form factor and innovative function to take the personal computer from a necessity to a lifestyle statement for modern-day women on the go.

Here are some vocabulary

谭燕玉  tán yàn yù   Vivienne Tam

牡丹    mǔ dān    Peony

蝴蝶  hú dié   Butterfly

梁祝  Liáng  zhù  Butterfly lovers

刺绣  Cì  xiù   embroidery

旗袍  qí  páo  cheongsam






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