2013.021.013 Oral History with Vivienne Tam
Vivienne Tam is born in Canton, and grew up in Hong Kong. Because of poverty, she made clothe for herself in childhood. When she grew up and back to China again, just found the traditional beauty and begin to combine the east and west together and combine the modern and traditional together. Tam devote herself to express the Chinese-ness to the world.


VIVIENNE TAM: When I was eight years old, I already started dressing up myself, and especially Chinese New Year, I made clothes. We would, I mean I was like sewing clothes for my mother. Because we didn't have money to buy to new clothes, so we started making new clothes for Chinese New Year, and my mother would say that you know making your own clothes, it's only one piece in the world, it's most special, most individual.

VIVIENNE TAM: I mean, a lot of people ask me, "Did you graduate from Parsons?" I say, "No I was graduate from Hong Kong Polytechnic." It was very interesting--people think I graduated from Parsons. Yeah, I was born in Canton. "Are you born in America?" No! I was born in Canton, China--but grew up in Hong Kong.VIVIENNE TAM: I just loved using my hands and making the clothes and selecting the fabrics, and it just makes me some different that I wear something that is special than other people.

VIVIENNE TAM: My mother says, just use your hand. You really feel the material. You feel, you know that when you feel the material, you know don't have to make it, you know. And making your own clothes, you really feel so much joy when you making something that you wear for yourself.

VIVIENNE TAM: I wasn't thinking about, you know, having a brand, you know. I really don't know anything about it. I just loved making clothes and dress up and making beautiful, and it was only until like I was in school and you know, I went back to China again, and found out, my God, China was so amazing! This was a place that I was born, but I didn't know anything about it.

VIVIENNE TAM: And the landscape is so amazing, and I thought, wow, this is really something I really didn't know it. And maybe I should do something to learn more about the culture, which I was missing it so much.

VIVIENNE TAM: It's a bit confused, I grew up in Hong Kong but the moment I was in China, I found--this is really-- I find that it's really myself that, I really didn't know, I really find more, I wanted to go deeper to find who I am and where I came from.

VIVIENNE TAM: Why were Chinese only looking to the west, only looking to the western brands--everything in the west is the best! And we have such a rich culture, and rich materials, and resources. Why don't we really express it?

VIVIENNE TAM: Like there is a mission, a responsibility, to do something for my country, for where I grew up. And something that truly belongs to myself and I want to show the world that China is so amazing.

VIVIENNE TAM: The craftsmanship, it's just so much to learn, you know. And I would love to be able to use each collection able to express the Chinese-ness to the world.

VIVIENNE TAM: And people telling my friends and schoolmates who tell me, "Vivienne, you'll never be successful. Why don't you use a western name? You can't have a Chinese name. And you have to use a different label." I wasn't thinking of anything grand; I just wanted to do something I loved and truly believed in. And I hope that I can do something--I really want to do something that's meaningful in life, and able to use my skill to express something.

VIVIENNE TAM: That one is a qipao, you know a qipao but with a skeleton. That print is dancing skeleton. You know that Chinese people hate the skeleton, you know. Now the young people, you see a lot of young Chinese wearing it, you know.

VIVIENNE TAM: It's very detailed because the prints--the skeletons--each one is puffed up. It's really, really interesting, but after finishing, it's really, really beautiful. Everybody loved it because it's so three-dimensional. And I love working on textures on like my fabrics and the prints, like layering and texture--I love creating my own fabrics.

VIVIENNE TAM: I think it's like, this winter, you know. It's from the opera collection. This is like a dragon. A dragon pattern. Derived from one of the dragon robe made into a lace and combined in two colors and lay them together so you can see all of them different layered, together.

VIVIENNE TAM: If you look at the collection, the other pieces, they all lay differently.

VIVIENNE TAM: My clothes are always trying to--like, the yin and yang, the modern and the tradition together. And the east and the west together.

VIVIENNE TAM: You put your heart into what you are doing people will come to you.

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