Fashion Week Is a Slumber Party, Says Phillip Lim

By Rachel Felder  •  February 5, 2019

The designer’s cure for chaos? Food, humor, and finding your tribe.

He’s been based in New York City for well over a decade, but designer Phillip Lim’s perspective is decidedly international. “I feel like I was born a global citizen,” he says. “From the get-go, my inspirations have always been global.”

Lim has, indeed, lived an international life: He was born in Thailand and raised in Southern California by Chinese parents who lived in Cambodia before moving to the U.S. The men’s and women’s clothing line he designs, 3.1 Phillip Lim, has fans around the world (it’s carried at his own boutiques in cities like London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Tokyo as well as department stores internationally). And recently, he’s been convincing 3.1 Phillip Lim buyers to become more global as well: his 2018 campaign “Take Time Off” urged followers to give in to wanderlust and explore their surroundings with the slogan “join us on the journey.”

“I’m trying to bring everyone along on the journey.”

 

Lim’s clothing is travel-ready as well. The designer’s aesthetic revolves around classics with a utilitarian, modernized twist, like crisp jackets tweaked with the addition of leather, shearling, or macramé inlays, or trousers cropped and crafted in unexpected shades of blue, green, and red. The clothes are a virtual uniform for busy creative types who need garments that will look as polished straight off a flight from Paris as they do at a power breakfast close to home.

Lim finds constant inspiration from his kindred-spirit fans. “I always believe that everywhere in the world there is a member of your tribe,” he says. “When you’re working on designs, you’re working on an inkling or a gut instinct, having a vision of who you’re designing these clothes for. We’re in the business of service, and servicing birds of our feather.”

When we spoke, a major focus was New York Fashion Week and preparing for his Fall/Winter runway show on February 11. “It’s chaotic,” he says of each season’s show prep. The buildup to each season’s fashion shows typically includes 16-hour days with his team in his studio in downtown Manhattan. “It’s nonsensical, unreasonable, and inhumane. You have to figure out how to find the joy in whatever it is you’re dealing with, because if you don’t have that, it could crush you.”

Lim has managed to find humor amid the mayhem: “It’s like a giant slumber party,” he laughs, “or a camp that no one can leave. At a certain point everyone’s just loopy and exhausted.” The key to Fashion Week survival, he found, is keeping up a routine of exercise and eating well.

Food is the spotlight of the other project he’s debuting this month: a cookbook, More Than Our Bellies, that’s filled with favorite recipes, from a basic omelette to galangal-infused tom yum goong. Lim’s friend, artist Viviane Sasen, took the book’s colorful photographs on trips throughout Asia and Africa. His love of cooking began around 13 years ago. “I was missing home and just started to cook for myself, trying to recreate memories of being in my mother’s kitchen through food,” he recalls. Now, he regularly makes specialties like spring rolls for friends. “Cooking became an obsession because it was something that was creative, that I could control, but that didn’t have a deadline. It’s constant experimentation—kind of like what we do in fashion, but without everyone’s judgement.”

Lim and his designs have grown and developed since he first launched the brand in 2005. “Hopefully I’ve allowed my customers to evolve with me, by always challenging myself design-wise, and showing them that it’s not produced by a machine,” he says. “It’s not just an aggregate of the latest trends—it’s actually a response to life and I’m trying to bring everyone along on the journey.”

 

 

While At Fashion Week…

Heading to to runway shows in London, Milan, Paris, or New York? Don’t miss our etiquette guide, plus insider tips on where the fashion flock hangs out while they’re in town.

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Written By: Rachel Felder

2.5.19

Locations: New York City

See more: Style

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