Vivienne Tam

updated 05/08/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/08/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

FOR A DESIGNER WHO HAS BUILT A $10 MILLION-A-year business devoted to helping dazzling women like Michelle Pfeiffer and Sharon Stone gild the lily, Vivienne Tam, 39, is curiously offhand about the subject of beauty. "What you feel inside," says Tarn, "is what's important. I don't think of myself as beautiful, although when people say I am, I feel great." Born in Canton and educated in Hong Kong and London, the Manhattan-based Tarn embraces a decidedly international—and irreverent—aesthetic: Current hits include sequined hot pants and frocks bedecked with portraits of Chairman Mao. Says colleague Anna Sui: "There are no boundaries with Vivienne."

On the home front she aims for moderation. Now between beaux, "I try to keep my life simple," says Tarn, who swims, does yoga and skips makeup (except for lipstick, "which I love"). And while she lives on vegetables, fish and chicken and quaffs only soybean milk and tepid water ("Cold drinks shock the body"), the beauty aid she values most is happiness. Says Tarn: "I was born to do what I do."

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