Vivienne Tam hails from China. Ever been?
Never, though I’d love to. I’m actually from the deep, deep South, from Alabama. This was my first job in New York, which I got by responding to an ad Vivienne had posted on Craigslist.
How about Chinatown?
There’s a place I love called 18 Arhans. It’s a little gem on Centre Street, owned and run by a Buddhist monk, with wonderful vegetarian Chinese home cooking.
What’s Vivienne’s current direction?
For her spring collection, she was inspired by the Miao people, a minority tribe in remote southern China; their trademark is ornate textiles and a lot of embroidery, batiking, and circle design.
Is the store feng shui–appropriate?
Yes. There are two doors in the back that we opened once because they looked really stunning, and then someone ran in and said, “You have to close them because it’s really bad for the chi!” Directly behind the huge foo dogs in the front, there’s a carved Chinese character for double happiness, and there’s a red wall that’s supposed to signify luck or prosperity. I’m not sure which.
Vivienne designed the uniforms at 66. Which restaurant would you design for?
T.G.I. Friday’s. I’d put the staff in black or charcoal-gray utilitarian-type one-piece jumpsuits. They’d have a special coating that would repel any sort of ranch dip or cheese sauce, and you’d have the option to zip off the arms and the legs.