How did your label, 3.1 Phillip Lim, come about?
Phillip Lim: In October 2004, after leaving Development, which was the first label I co-founded in California, my then friend and now business partner Wen Zhou invited me to New York with an unexpected proposition… to start my own label. It was literally a ‘sliding doors’ moment. Three days later I was in New York, and 3.1 Phillip Lim launched soon after in the Fall of 2005. I was motivated by a gap in the market between high end designers with hefty price tags or contemporary labels that just followed trends and became generic, watered down versions. There was nothing in between. I wanted to challenge the definition of the category, that you could have contemporary clothes with accessible price points, distribution and a distinct personality.
Where did you grow up, and was fashion something you always wanted to be involved in?
Phillip Lim: I was born in Thailand and grew up in Orange County California. For a long time I didn’t even know that fashion was even an option. I started out studying Finance and Business at college before it became really clear that I was sitting in the wrong class. My mother was a seamstress however, so I always felt comfortable around fabrics and clothes, eventually I realised just how comfortable I was being around clothes that I would make a profession out of it.
How would you describe the Phillip Lim man or woman?
Phillip Lim: I design for confident, intelligent, quirky, independent, effortless and kind people. I like to call them kindred spirits. People who are not defined by demographics like sex, age, race or colour, but have a common mindset through aesthetics, clothes and style.
Your wares have been seen on endless stars including Michelle Williams, Jessica Biel, Lindsay Lohan, Scarlet Johansson and Helena Christiansen. Who have you been most excited about seeing in your clothing – friends, family, personal heroes, celebrities?
Phillip Lim: The truth is it’s everyday people who aren’t necessarily dressing to stand in front of the cameras or to be seen by the world that I’m interested in, I love people who choose my clothing purely for themselves; people who would dress that way even if no one was watching. Sometimes when I’m in my stores and I'm changing the mannequins, I see someone come out of the fitting rooms looking happy because they found something they feel good in – that makes me excited. It also could be a random person walking down the street or getting on the subway. In fact, three months ago I saw an amazing looking business woman on her way to work with her attaché case and confident poise – I realised that she was wearing my clothes, but in the kid’s sizes and I thought, ‘now that is truly inspiring’.
Would you say you are following in the tradition of great American fashion design – or do you look elsewhere for inspiration?
Phillip Lim: Though I have a respect for traditional American fashion design, I don’t consider my clothes purely American, I like to
| think of my label as global. I am inspired by the global citizen, one whose curiosity for the world, appetite for culture and outlook is borderless. They can be in Paris in the morning and then in New York that night. |
Do you think there is a particularly American fashion style or aesthetic? There seems to be a wave of talented young US designers on the rise right now...
Phillip Lim: The American aesthetic is clean cut, linear, straightforward, sportswear-inspired and very practical for the American way of life. There are an amazing group of young US designers who are able to take classic American sportswear and give it their own exotic flourishes. They are able to take the foundations of American design and give it a modern global treatment.
What informs or inspires your designs - how do you get in the mood to create?
Phillip Lim: There is no on or off switch when it comes to inspiration for my designs. I like to keep my mind open to the possibility that inspiration can come from anywhere. It could be an accumulation of inspirations, a collage of seemingly random ideas that come together cohesively. I am also informed by my friends, peers, young professionals who are carving out their path in the world. On the surface it's seemingly simple; they go about their day effortlessly. But underneath there are layers – even one day can have challenges and opportunities, small victories and defeats. I try to create small solutions, through my clothing, for these professionals. Often it's about creating a look they can wear from day to night that is comfortable but has a point of view.
Can you tell us about your latest AW09 collection - what were the running concepts or themes?
Phillip Lim: Music is an influence and this line from Bryan Ferry's 'Street Life' is a jumping off point, “This Brave new world’s not like yesterday; it can take you higher than the milky way”. In general, the AW09 collection is based on a vague bohemianism and the ‘youthquake’ movement of London in the ‘60s, about the mythical spirit of rock and roll. The look is a bazaar of youthful, quirky eccentricities with subtle influences of early Biba, Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell. It is glam rock fuelled by the promise of optimism and fantasy. It is rock poetry in motion. The collection is about movement, it has unlikely combinations with romantic luxe touches and flourishes. There are moments of surprise and whimsy like a rabbit-out-a-hat; a feeling of carefree fun but deliberate and definite, and always effortless.
What's the best thing about running and designing for your own label? Do you wear your own clothing?
Phillip Lim: Running your own label is like a voyage of independence and discovery. You not only learn about design and business, but you learn a lot about yourself as well. The other great thing about having your own label is that you are able to design clothes you can wear. I also wear classic American brands like Levi's.