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Phillip Lim Approaches a Milestone

Q&A
Phillip Lim, here and below.

By Tali Jaffe

It’s hard to believe Phillip Lim is approaching the tenth anniversary of his eponymous brand—and, my what a decade it’s been! With a label that now includes men’s and womenswear, accessories and a veritable It Bag, Lim could take a moment to bask in the glow of (almost-instant) success. Not a chance. Instead, while working on no less than four collections at one time, Lim slid into town just long enough to celebrate the opening of his new shop-in-shop at Saks Fifth Avenue and the Spring 2014 collection. We stole a few minutes of the designer’s time to discuss twitter, self-taught fashion and what ever happened to home economics. 

How do you keep up with the fashion pace?
I don't. You just have to give in and believe in what you're doing. It's actually liberating. Just do what you do—and then do it better.

When did you figure that out?
It was a process...it's been almost 10 years! You have to grow into it and then take a minute to step back and think about your quality of life and forget about the race. Get back to that mindset that what you’re doing is about the pursuit of pleasure and happiness.

Since you didn't study fashion, how did you make your way into this industry?
I studied home ec! I was business school dropout. I took some merchandising courses, which led to an internship and then a job. After some time with the label Development, they asked me to design a collection—which was not something I knew how to do! But, I just put a pen to paper and went with it.

How many looks did you come up with for that collection?
31. Each piece led to the next one; here's a skirt, now she needs a top and a jacket and...

And where did “3.1” come from?
I was 31 when I launched my line with my business partner—who was also 31. I didn't want to use my name, so I thought I could hide behind the numbers... of course that didn’t happen.

But there are some advantages to having a number in your brand—like showing up first on style.com. Yes, we quickly realized that. But that wasn’t the intention!

Do you ever look back and think of what you may have done differently in those early years?
I hate to look back. I do think how fortunate it was that I was young and willing to take risks. What they say about naivety being bliss true!

What advice would you offer to fashion designers in the making?
When I speak at schools or events and even to my own interns, I’m always asked about starting a line straight out of fashion school. My advice? ‘No. Make some mistakes on someone else’s dime.’

Now that you have an It Bag, the Pashli, can you share some insight on how that happens?
Well, it came out of my "Girls on Bikes" collection, which was all about the style of girls who use bikes as transport in the city. So the bag was sort of functional, but had a cool aesthetic. It was made to work for how they move, what they wear, where they’re going... It became a runaway hit and we’ve done a few iterations of it now.

And what about the totes amaze statement you made in your Fall 2014 collection?
That was a bit of fun and all about popular culture. It’s a commentary on our hashtagging culture, and also a play on words as it’s a tote bag embossed with “amaze.”

Are you active in social media?
No, I'm really not. Someone else at the studio does it. But, you just can't deny its relevance and that it will be a part of our culture for some time. I think you have to find your own place in that space. It’s important to have a point of view more than ever.

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