Although born in the Chinese province of Guangzhou (formerly know as Canton), Vivienne Tam grew up in Hong Kong, attending Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Hong Kong was at the time a British colony, and it is her early years here that can be seen as instrumental in her signature East-meets-West style.
Moving to New York upon graduation, Tam immediately fell in love with the exiting buzz of the city’s fashion scene. She launched her signature collection in 1994 and followed this a year later with the controversial Mao collection. This collection depicted the former Chinese leader in a number of unusual, embarrassing and humorous ways. Because of its controversial nature, the collection not only made her famous on the world stage, but also blurred the lines between fashion and art, and as testament to this, the museum at FIT and London’s Victoria and Albert museum both house pieces from the collection.
Vivienne Tam has continued to combine fashion and art in her collections. Her 1997 Buddha collection was both hugely popular and influential, with pieces from the collection being housed in a number of prestigious museums worldwide, including the famous Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Her collections also continue to be influenced by both the East and the West, and represent the ever-shifting dialogue between the two hemispheres. However it would be wrong to think that Tam’s work solely concerns such lofty and heavy issues. After revealing her successful 2013 collection, she told Fashionista , “I wanted to dress a woman with heart”. Beneath the political undertones, there rests an important feminine functionality.
Vivienne’s work as a fashion designer continues to branch out into different areas, being involved with Hewlett Packard on a special range of Vivienne Tam designer netbook computers, and, from 2013, a collaboration with TSL on a new jewellery range.