Vivienne Tam Fall 2011 – Keeping in Line With Tradition

Vivienne Tam’s message this fall: keep in line with traditions.

Inspired by the 600-year old Kun Opera, Tam emphasized the Asian’s importance of recognizing their cultural and traditional backgrounds, especially those that are ancient. The show notes mention, “In China, we are deeply aware of our contradictions: in awe of our ancient cultural traditions, yet striving to be modern.”

Tam was able to mix the importance with tradition with the desire of modernity in her collection, which was influenced by the Kun Opera, as well as the Guangzhou Opera House, created by Zaha Hadid. The historic opera allowed Tam to connect a time of ancient traditions with contemporary designs – a tactic that is impressive to master.


Tam’s starting points for her look were the elaborate costumes of the Kun and taking these fantastical costumes and transforming them into everyday wear. A combination of tweed, wool and silk mimicked the costumes in an East-meets-West manner, mixing contemporary with ancient. Opera sleeves on a champagne colored blouse echoed the Chinese opera, topped with a black suede vest with fur trims.

The collection opened with a neutral palette of charcoal and navy, but eventually transitioned into sequin dresses and eventually went to the other side of the color spectrum with a bold, red sequined dress. The recognizable dragon motifs that are commonly found on Chinese print fabrics were also worked into the collection – a cream dragon crotchet tunic with crystals wowed the audience.

Trompe l’oeil was used in emphasizing the intricate details that are found on the costumes: traditional patters that featured appliqués, lace, embroideries and crochet handicraft – all constructed with modern materials. While the looks were overall conservative, the details such as tassels, fringe and Swarovski crystal embellishments made the looks bold and attractive.

Images courtesy of Andy Wisniewski for Keenography