Chinese-American designer Vivienne Tam is known for bridging Eastern and Western cultures together through her work, while also pioneering the integration of technology in fashion. Having already collaborated with companies such as Google, HP, Lenovo/Moto, and Tencent to advance her brand in the Web2 world, now she is expanding her offering in the Web3 realm. I was honored to speak with Tam during New York Fashion Week; not only because of the admiration I have for her as a designer, but for the representation she has brought to our community as a female Asian American artist recognized by the West. Here’s what she has in store for the future.
I would love to start off by asking you what was the core influence of this collection, and how do you see yourself represented in the collection?
This collection is the continuation of the last, which featured the NFT artworks. This time we are going into the Metaverse! We are bringing New York Fashion Week into the Metaverse and breaking the fourth wall. It’s really, really exciting: the continuation of bringing two worlds together. It is also about the presentation. We want to bring the two worlds together. I want people from the crypto world, the Web3 world, and from all over the world to be able to see the show as well. This is our first attempt, so hopefully more and more people can experience it.
When did you become interested in this new digital world?
During COVID, I stayed in Hong Kong and couldn’t come back. You couldn’t go out much, so I started learning more. People started approaching me, such as the Hong Kong Cyberport. In Hong Kong there are all these digital fairs and events, so I started learning more about it and I opened up my mind. I’ve spent so many years on the Web2 world—but the Web3 world is giving me so many opportunities. So many things I couldn’t do before, I can make it happen there. It is really great for me to bring my culture there. I’ve always incorporated technology with my fashion. In 2008 I did the digital clutch. Web3 needs fashion and lifestyle to make it more human.
Tell us more about bringing your brand into the Metaverse.
For me as a designer, the creative process is really interesting, like how I communicate with my customers. I want to
bring in more Web3 customers to my physical space and my Web2 customers to the Web3 space. By doing that, it allows them to experience different environments and different experiences.
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If you had to pick a key piece from this collection, Vivienne to the Metaverse, what would it be and why?
Each piece in this collection is quite unique, so I cannot just pick one. This collection blends the traditional history and culture to the Metaverse. The inspiration is derived from the ancient oracle bone script of the Twelve Zodiac Animals from Ancient China, and how we write the animals. The bone script represents one of the oldest [forms] of communication. They have been with the universe, as a human we are together with the universe united; heaven, man and earth. This collection is weaving everyone together; bringing the communities of the NFT world, the Web3 world, together. You will see pieces that combine it all together, bringing humanity and culture together.
What else do we need to know?
This is just the beginning part of our vision. It will continue more and more. This collection mixes everything together: the
NFT artworks and the bone script symbols, the metaverse. We worked a lot with Cyberport from Hong Kong. This collection embraces Hong Kong’s innovation and technology. This is where I got all this inspiration from! I met all these different people from there! It’s an incredible collective of companies. I’m part of Cyberport, that’s why I love it so much. I’m proud to know that I’m part of incubating a bunch of these amazing start ups.
You’ve always created a bridge between the two cultures of East and West, how do you ensure you’re innovating and staying true to the brand every year?
Just absorbing what is going on in the world. In every collection and every collaboration, I bring two cultures together, and how I do that is important. I think the Web3 world is so inspiring, so how can I bring my own culture, Chinese culture, to the digital world? Also, it’s about women. The Web3 world is more male-dominated, so can I give it more femininity and leave a balance? You know like 天地人和 (“Tian Di Ren He”) Heaven Man and Earth? I always try to bring spirituality and energy to every collection. The Web3 world isn’t just about gaming, it’s about how we live, don’t forget about us or yourself. I try to bring more meaningful messages to the other parts of the world. I’m excited. I mean, the last two collections gave me a new journey of my career. It’s brought on a transformation of who I am myself. Also bringing in MahJong too! There was a piece with MaJong and CryptoPunks. And I get to meet new people from the Web3 world, all these very interesting creators. Their minds are so different and give me so much inspiration.
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How would you envision your customers to interact with your brand in the digital world?
I think they are learning about it too. They will gradually understand it more and more. And this is what I’m doing instead of having my own NFTs. I wanted to learn about it myself and at the same time bring in my customers to gradually go to the Web3 world. They find all these images very interesting and start learning about the world. I’m talking to them and inspiring them. For example, if I find a great image and then I can tell them about the communities. It will take time but they love it. I find it is the easiest way to incorporate fashion and the details of it so they gradually understand. Sometimes they may look at a big image through a computer and they don’t relate to it, but once I incorporate them into clothing and weave them together, they react like, ‘Wow it’s so exciting or interesting!’ They start learning about it and I think this is the easiest way to have them understand the NFT world.
How do you see yourself expanding your story in the digital world when you’ve created such a strong legacy in the physical world?
I think that it’s really great I can document my archives. People can look at my archives easily and see what I’ve done, such as some of the really interesting prints. I see my prints as artworks so I can start archiving them. I can remind customers of my pieces, and then have new customers learning about my work. And then possibly doing some games, but the games will be more about learning about the culture, while making it fun.
What do you hope people will take away from this collection?
I want them to feel like, ‘Wow! I can go to the metaverse to see her collection.’ How exciting! They can feel that it is the new Vivienne Tam. And they also learn about the history. When they look at the collection it will be something they love to wear not just in the physical world, but also the virtual world. I want them to understand what the Web3 world can offer to the Web2 world customers. I think people’s imagination of a traditional fashion show cannot picture it in the Web3 world. I want to bring some newness, some excitement.
What is a piece of advice you would give to your younger self or emerging designers?
Be yourself and do what you really love to do. If you really love what you’re doing, you will go for it, you will make it happen and make it successful. Never give up what you believe, no matter what people tell you. And be patient. One collection may sometimes not necessarily do good, or not sell well. But you have to be true to yourself, you have to stay true to who you are and do what you love to do. You cannot change because of someone else’s opinion, because it’s other people’s perception of you. It’s the inner strength and inner journey that is most important. Stay there and persevere, a lot of designers have amazing designs but they give up so easily or after one or two seasons. Always look outside at what’s happening, always get inspiration from as much as you can. Knowing who you are too; knowing what you want to do in this life, in this world, and what you are able to offer in this world.
What else is ahead for you and this brand this year?
To expand! The next show will be a more mature dimension to this collection. I will focus on how to bring the two customers together, building a stronger community between the Web2 and Web3 world. That’s really my goal. Once you feel something, do what is true to your feelings. Do what you believe in and feel yourself, everything comes from your heart. Do what you want to do and things will come to you. I believe the universe helps make you successful and deliver what you really want to have if you are true to yourself, in alignment with Heaven, Man and Earth.
[This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity]
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