How The Covid-19 Pandemic Lifted Designer Vivienne Tam Into The Metaverse

Vivienne Tam at New York Fashion Week this month.

VIvienne Tam

The metaverse has captured imaginations worldwide with its portrayal of new vistas. The title of a new best-selling book this year summarizes the buzz: “The Metaverse” promises to explain “How It Will Revolutionize Everything.”

One enthusiast from the fashion world: Vivienne Tam. Tam’s life is rooted in Hong Kong, where she moved at age three from the mainland China city of Guangzhou. Yet she has expanded her influence and bridged cultures around the world over the years. Tam, a naturalized American citizen, struck it big in New York in the 1990s, launching her own fashion lines and collections that today are part of the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburg. Her gowns have been worn by the likes of Lady Gaga, Gong Li, Jessica Alba, Paris Hilton and Jill Biden.

Since 2020, the pandemic has been a catalyst for new thinking. Stores closed, upending the way people shop for fashion wares. “What is the future of my business?” Tam wondered aloud in an interview in New York this month. Lifestyles have changed, she said.

And so has technology. NFTs, once viewed skeptically, have become more popular, in part because they allow for consumers to lock in personalized items. “We all laughed at NFTs,” said Jenny Johnson, president of Franklin Templeton at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore this week. “But if you take intellectual property and validate its usage, think about what that opens up,” she said. “I think it could be very interesting going forward.”

For her part, Tam was back in New York this month for the New York Fashion Week, the city’s big twice-a-year fashion gathering that in September featured more than 100 designers. More than 200 people attended Tam’s event last Wednesday.

Vivienne Tam highlight metaverse themes at New York Fashion Week this month.

Vivienne Tam

What they largely saw from Tam were more prominent figures from NFT collections that she incorporated into her cuts and accessories. Characters came from the Yuga Labs groups such as Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunks, along with others from CyberKongz and Awkward Astronauts. Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT sales have reported exceeded $1 billion globally and attracted celebrity buyers including Jimmy Fallon and Snoop Dog.

Tam believes the newly emerging group of figures has wide appeal across age groups and gender. “There are endless possibilities in the digital world that in the physical world I cannot do,” Tam said.

“The stories and communities inspire me so much in what they do and how they can come up with all these individual concepts,” she said. “I have many friends that bought them, and then they tell me the story of why they buy them.”

The reason, she said, is “related to personality. It’s quite interesting. So I thought, ‘Why don’t I bring all these beautiful images to the physical world?’ People can enjoy even more expression of their concepts in another dimension. Buyers choose images that reflect their own personality, just as in the physical world, but in a more flexible digital format.”

The motivation to buy digitally can be the same as in the physical world, she said. “Maybe I want to use my atavar to dress for a boyfriend or girlfriend,” Tam said. “I want to encourage that customization.”

Times and technology change, but the wish to feel good about life doesn’t, Tam said. “Everybody wants something special and to feel good about it.” The metaverse, she believes, will open more vistas for that pleasure.

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