To the tents! For the second installment in the Fashion Week Series, we bring coverage of Vivienne Tam, who showed her spring collection Tuesday night to packed house in the Promenade at Bryant Park. As the woman standing behind me as we waited for the room to clear out explained so eloquently to a friend on the other end of her iPhone, “Vivienne Tam used to be like, huge, in the nineties. She does a lot of, like, Asian-inspired stuff.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself: over a decade later, Tam’s iconic look— the only look really easily associable with the brand—remains the slinky stretch-nylon dresses silk-screened with a repeating print of Mao’s face, released in 1994. Tam, still drawing from China’s vibrant culture for inspiration, has established herself as one of the country’s premier designers, and purveyor to the West of what she calls “China Chic”.
In the past few seasons, reviews have been fairly negative: critics of Vivienne Tam’s ready-to-wear collection two years ago called it “too fussy… forced through some esoteric fashion filter” (Fall ‘07) and for her last presentation (in Fall ‘08, a collaboration with, inexplicably, Hong Kong Disneyland resulting in silk minidresses decorated with none other than… Mickey Mouse?), Style.com remarked, “Even Disney Magic couldn’t save this one”.
How were the clothes this time around? Well, a lot of it was forgettable, but the rest was so absolutely stunning, I’ve already forgotten the forgettable stuff.
Vivienne Tam should stick to sheaths. Hers were at the same time elegant, easy but incredibly cool. Where many of her other looks fell flat (okay, I lied: disasters include a pinstriped mess of a pantsuit, ugly blazers, a shiny patent-fuchsia dress that elicited a mutter of “Dear God!” from someone several feet away, and really tacky, sparkly floral beading), Vivienne Tam knows how to make a good skinny cocktail dress.
lekeliene Stange opened the show with a stunning dark red silk sheath that drew audible gasps. With peony appliqués across the shoulders and neck creating a high collar and the fabric’s deeply saturated color, the stylized look made me think of the movie 2046. Other models were sent out in great pieces: a swingy knife-pleated shift in a fabric of watercolor peonies; a gloriously chic trench coat in deep orange silk with nothing else (very Technicolor Hitchcock); a lilac-colored confection of chiffon petals over a short skirt and sheer blouse; and a very smart high-waisted black pant with white silk tank that managed to be at once both space-age and a little Renaissance with its petal-like, almost ruffled high collar. My personal favorite was a black strapless silk sheath with a high-necked, long-sleeved sheer overlay (called an illusion neckline) and intricate black silk petals piled together along the bust to look like little cut-out peonies (with peeking red backs!).
Other trends on Tam’s runway this season: sweeping diaphanous empire-waist gowns in floral-print chiffon (very pretty but very predictable; to echo Miranda Priestley: “Florals for spring? Shocking!”), rather boring draped jewel-neck halters, and slim pencil skirts. Models wore their hair in clean low buns with center parts; their faces were neutral with a flash of bronze painted across the brow.
Also really cool: Tam collaborated with HP to create a handheld limited-edition laptop—that looks like a peony-printed clutch! (You can’t even tell.)
Perhaps the best moment of the show though came right near the beginning, when the crowd grew quiet as a model in a long gauzy gown suddenly affected a stilted, nearly catatonic, just really weird walk (no, it wasn’t Karlie Kloss being herself). The hush didn’t last long; as the model made her turn down the runway, she just as suddenly bent down and to the delight of all, removed her very high heels. The audience broke out in applause and she walked the rest of the way back in bare feet, with the troublesome shoes dangling casually from one hand.
So: models are mortal, the ladylike look lives, Vivienne Tam is still making perfectly lovely (though not particularly innovative) Asian-inspired dresses, the world turns, etc, etc. Until next time, from the tents!
(Photo credits: Marcio Madeira from Style.com)
No reactions to display.