Phillip Lim Interview

“It’s a momentous time for me,” Designer Phillip Lim says as he relaxes in the lobby of The Raleigh Hotel. Momentous indeed. In town to celebrate the opening of his newfangled 3.1 Phillip Lim shop-in-shop in Saks Bal Harbour, the 40-year-old is the King of Cool Contemporary Clothes. We talk shop and more with CFDA award-winning designer and classicist (with a dash of craziness!) at heart.

Pragmatic, easy and quirky come to mind when I think of your line. How do perceive it? It’s cool, easy chic. It’s for people with a certain kind of spirit — classic with a sense of madness.

What does the 3.1 stand for? My business partner and I were 31 years old when we launched — at first, people thought we were a tech company!

You were born in Thailand to Chinese parents, how does this influence your aesthetic? What is modern today is diversity. And I’ve had the privilege of growing up in both East and Western worlds in one lifetime — so there’s a balance of humility and classicness in my clothes.

Your mother is a seamstress and your father is a professional poker player. Did your mother have a hand in your fashion trajectory? She had to. It’s part of that balance. My father had so much bravado and would literally gamble every day. And my mother was the salt of the earth and the classic homemaker.

You are the youngest of 6 kids. Describe that dynamic. I think at that point, they just left me alone. Ha!

At age 1, you moved to Orange County, California. How was life in the ‘burbs? It was quiet and when I was young, I thought, ‘this sucks.’ But when I reflect upon it, it actually forced me to delve into creativity. It was a godsend to be brought up in peace.

It’s impossible to ignore this wave of Asian-American designers who are at to the fore such as you, Jason Wu, Alexander Wang and Thakoon, among so many others. Why do you think that is? I hope it’s not just a moment. I think in Asian and Eastern cultures, there’s always this appreciation for aesthetics and beautiful things.

 Have you experienced that Aha! moment that you’re a design star? No. Once in a while, I ask myself, ‘What am I doing?’ It’s been such a crazy ride and every day I count my blessings — and what’s nice about that feeling is that it keeps you on your toes. It keeps you honest.


Guilty pleasure: Bravo reality TV and Game of Thrones

Favorite movies: Dying Young and Happy Together

Currently reading: A Guide to the Waterways of South Hampton

Must-have item in closet: A navy sport coat. Navy is my favorite color.