Hong Kong fashion designer Vivienne Tam talks about her first public show of art

Tapestry on Silk Road theme she created for exhibition had same motifs as her latest fashion collection ‘so it came together like magic’, Tam says

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 April, 2016, 1:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 April, 2016, 4:34pm

Of the 15 woman artists who created artworks for a Hong Kong exhibition of art from along the Silk Road, one name stood out in the fashion community, that of Hong Kong fashion designer Vivienne Tam.

The tapestry she created for the One Belt One Road Visual Arts exhibition is the first art Tam has produced for public viewing.

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Tam said her involvement in the exhibition was fate. When the Hong Kong Federation of Women approached her with the idea a few months ago, she was already working on her autumn-winter 2016-17 collection, which was also inspired by the ancient Silk Road’s role in cultural exchange.

“They approached me but they didn’t know my collection was themed in a similar way so it came together like magic. My fashion collection spoke to the same themes and I had already spent plenty of time researching places along the Silk Road including Urumqi [in China’s Xinjiang region] and all the crafts used there to decorate people’s homes.”

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It was only natural, then, that Tam’s fashion collection provided a starting point for her art piece, Cultural Dreamland (they share the same name)- a larger-than-life tapestry depicting a mosaic of dreamy Chinese landscapes blended with cultural symbols, prints and patterns from countries including Kazakhstan, Turkey and Russia.

“As soon as I started drawing, I was bringing together mountains and different landscapes and patterns. When you look at it closely you see all the details but from the distance it’s dreamlike, almost as though you are in the clouds. The more you look at it, the more you discover,” she says.

To bring her vision to life, Tam found a weaving factory in China to create the tapestry from scratch using a range of different yarns made from fabrics such as silk, cotton and wool, in various thicknesses and colours. It was important to Tam that the tapestry didn’t appear old, so she added a modern touch through her choice of colours and textures.

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“For me, fashion is art,” Tam said. “So much of what I do derives from and is inspired by art. If you think about it fashion, it is actually a moving art. It’s about craft, which you can see in my prints, embroideries and appliqués. You can say that many of my pieces are art in some form.”

The entire creative process, though, was quite different to creating a fashion collection.

“With the artwork it is about textures and creating a graphic element, whereas with clothing it’s important to think about wearing it on the body. At the same time both need to be visually stunning for those looking at it,” she said.

Aesthetics aside, Tam hopes Cultural Dreamscape will resonate with audiences, especially women.

“Meeting all the artists together was amazing. It was a great opportunity to learn from each other and talk about different cultures. Like the art pieces themselves, it’s symbolic of different cultures blending and working together in harmony,” she says.

“Art and fashion are one and the same. Fashion is moving art in the sense that it is alive and is a part of our lifestyle. They both evoke consciousness, stimulate dialogue and enhance our style.”

One Belt One Road Visual Arts Exhibition, organised by Hong Kong Federation of Women. Until April 16 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery