Interview: Vivienne Tam Plans for Mainland Expansion, Dedicates F/W 2017 Collection to Hong Kong

As a veteran fashion designer well-established in the West for her “East-meets-West” style, Vivienne Tam attracted a wide range of supporters today at her Fall/Winter 2017 runway show for New York Fashion Week. Audience members included First Daughter Tiffany Trump, who also attended Taoray Wang’s show over the weekend, Paris Hilton, and Chinese actress Bea Ting Kuo.

Tiffany Trump (R) attends the Vivienne Tam F/W 2017 runway show, taking a photo with Chinese actress Bea Ting Kuo (L). (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for Vivienne Tam)

This season, Vivienne looked to Hong Kong’s iconic signage, neon lights, and the city’s vibrant nightlife for inspiration. For the past several decades, the ubiquitous neon scene has become an integral part of the city’s DNA, blending in with other Hong Kong landmarks such as Victoria Harbor and a myriad of skyscrapers. Her latest collection also comes amid the yearlong celebration of the 20-year anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from the British to the Chinese government.

Prior to Vivienne Tam’s runway show, Jing Daily had a chance to chat with her about her collection. Riding on her special connection with Hong Kong, Tam hopes her designs, which feature bright colors, shimmery sequins, and metallics with contrasting textures, can place the vibrant and cosmopolitan city front and center once again.

Why did you decide to create a collection about Hong Kong?

This year is the 20-year anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from the British to the Chinese (government), and I want to use this occasion as a backdrop to celebrate and to bring the world’s attention to Hong Kong. Everytime I fly back to Hong Kong, when I land, I always see the light. It’s a city of lights, so that’s what I called the collection. I want to highlight the beauty of Hong Kong because so much is going on there, making it such an exciting city. Even though I have moved here (New York), Hong Kong is always my inspiration. New York gives me opportunity, but Hong Kong is my inspiration.

I call the neon lights the visual culture. Especially during Chinese New Year and Christmas, neon signs and lights are on all over the city.

Vivienne Tam's latest collection is inspired by the haze of neon lights. (Courtesy Photo)

Vivienne Tam’s latest collection is inspired by the haze of neon lights. (Courtesy Photo)

Over the past two decades, Hong Kong has gone through a huge transformation, and some citizens are not satisfied with the changes. Did that have any effect on your design?

I want to associate Hong Kong with very positive feelings. Because I grew up in Hong Kong, it is the place that always gives me so much energy. I see the younger generation has so much going on, but for me, this is a really vibrant city. Hong Kong is filled with many cultures, and the people are very cosmopolitan. There are all different kinds of people coming to Hong Kong for business, and I always am able to discuss global issues with the people I meet there. It is a really interesting place.

What inspired you to create a tech travel kit? Are Chinese consumers looking for more fashionable tech? Is this an item you’ve released before?

I worked with Motorola for my last collection. I always like to make the tech world more fashionable, beautiful, and more lifestyle-focused. It is not just about functionality, but it is really about looking good and very stylish. I want to bring it to the fashionable consumers, making it comfortable and trendy.

Because I travel a lot, all of the things in the travel kit are very important to me. This time, I am launching a bag with a charger with all the compartments you need inside, so you can use it both to travel and as an evening bag. It is very stylish.

A look for the Vivienne Tam collection during the New York Fashion Week. (Photo by Dan Lecca)

A look for the Vivienne Tam collection during the New York Fashion Week. (Photo by Dan Lecca)

How did your “Year of the Rooster” collection do this year?

It did very well. This time, we had so many different themed products. For me, it is very important to commemorate Chinese New Year. This is a special occasion, and it’s exciting to celebrate it with different zodiac animals. There was one year I did it with 12 animals. This year, we also made red envelopes for customers.

Who is your target customer, Chinese or westerners?

With The Year of the Rooster collection, I targeted my regular customers. There are three generations of customers actually, which is really interesting. For example, a mother and a daughter came to buy a piece from the “Opera Girl” collection. There are very different types of people coming to my stores.

There are also westerners buying it, but there are more Chinese in general. Most of the westerners who buy it live in China or in Hong Kong or stay there during the Chinese New Year.

Hong Kong’s retail industry has not been doing well, and your business is mostly based in Hong Kong. Has this had an impact on your business?

I was very lucky that it did not have much of an impact. I have a group of loyal customers and fans in Hong Kong. I can say that we are doing okay because of these really loyal fans who appreciate my work.

Do you get many mainland clients in Hong Kong?

There are fewer mainland customers coming to buy my products in Hong Kong now. There were more in the past, but fewer now. They are still coming though.

Do you have plans to expand further into the mainland market? 

Yes, I am opening stores in China by the end of this year. I am in the middle of talking to a partner, so hopefully will be opening stores this coming winter season.

How about in other regions?

We just expanded into Korea a couple of months ago. We have been selling in the Philippines, Japan, and Thailand for many years, and now in Korea. We see Korea as a big market for the brand.

Fashion designer Vivienne Tam came out to greet the audience at the end of the show. (Courtesy Photo)

Fashion designer Vivienne Tam came out to greet the audience at the end of the show. (Courtesy Photo)

We’ve seen many brands leaving New York Fashion Week for Paris, Los Angeles and elsewhere this year. Why NYFW for Vivienne Tam?

I love New York. America gives me a big opportunity, and I want to support the fashion industry here. It is really the place where I started my business, and where I call home.

Do you plan to participate in other fashion weeks?

Of course, yes, there is that possibility. I do not know yet. For the moment, I want to stay in New York.

This interview was edited and condensed.