Having just returned to New York from Hong Kong for the first time since the pandemic took hold, Vivienne Tam is excited to be participating in New York Fashion Week.
Her show Wednesday will not just be another run-of-the-mill runway show. The designer has linked up with several blue chip NFT and crypto resources. For her 2023 spring collection, Tam is incorporating numerous avatars from some blue chip NFT collections. The result is meant to be genderless and intergenerational. Tam is using characters from the Yuga Labs umbrella — Bored Ape Yacht Club, CryptoPunks, CyberKongz and Awkward Astronauts — and has sewn, embroidered, printed and emblazoned onto and into various cuts and silhouettes, including numerous accessories.
Tam’s collection will be presented against a massive digital IRL landscape created by Scapes, which will flank the central runway at Spring Studios. Scapes are a collection of 10,000 unique landscapes stored on the Ethereum Blockchain. Several people have approached her about getting into NFTs, due to the preponderance of prints that she is known for. Wanting to understand the market first, Tam said she has since found NFTs and the metaverse to be “really interesting and mind-boggling. Wow — there are so many possibilities for creativity. You can create 10,000 images and each image is unique,” she said.
Now that COVID-19 travel restrictions have lifted, the designer plans to divide her time between New York and Hong Kong. Like many other creatives, she has been rethinking how to reposition her business, since consumers have grown more accustomed to spending more time online and in the digital world. “It’s not just about fashion. It’s about lifestyle,” she said. “But I believe that people are getting back into fashion. It’s not just about wearing pajamas, sweatshirts and all that [laughs].”
Returning to NYFW is a bit of a homecoming for Tam, who held her first fashion show in Bryant Park in 1994. Born in Guangzhou, China, she studied at Hong Kong Polytechnic University before relocating to the U.S. with a 20-piece collection. Henri Bendel and Barneys New York were among the first to pick up her label.
Now her collection is sold primarily direct to consumer, bespoke and through pop-up stores, which is fitting for her newest endeavor. “I want all of those NFT players to place orders, when they look at my collection,” the designer said, adding that she hopes they will request specific placement for the Bored Ape Yacht Club icons and CryptoPunks. “When you look at this collection, you can see how I play around with the images. I can do embroidery. I can do lace. It’s not like some other NFTs where the images are just on a T-shirt.”
Although she believes that the economic situation in Hong Kong is improving and everyday life is feeling more normal, she allowed that a number of stores, including luxury, ones have closed. That is also the case in Manhattan especially in the heart of Fifth Avenue, she said.
The designer has been dealing with some major personal setbacks of her own in recent years. Her boyfriend Scott Crolla — a star of London fashion in the ’80s and early ’90s — died of cancer in July 2019. And her longtime salesperson of 25 years, Brian Hogan, also died of cancer in August 2021. “They were the two closest people in my life. It’s been a hard year, but I’m glad to be back in New York,” she said.
However trying those losses have been,Tam said the opportunity to explore the metaverse has opened up her creativity. “Now I’m going from the past to the present to the future,” she said. “In the past, we would go to flea markets and research antique clothing to understand the past, cultures, fashion history and history in order to make it new. But now I’m thinking about, ‘What is the future?'”