|Lim, photographed in the New York loft that will soon be his new HQ | Photo by Jake Chessum|
Excerpt from Bee Shyuan-Chang's great article in Fast Company's United States of Design
"I WANT MY WORK TO SPEAK FOR ME." Phillip Lim says these words flatly, much as he says everything when you first meet him. It's really quite a fashion-designery thing to say--rather predictable, a tad pretentious, and not meaning much at all. Except in Lim's case, he's not kidding, because he doesn't seem to want to speak for himself.
"Phillip is elusive," says Wen Zhou, CEO of Lim's company, 3.1 Phillip Lim. "It's shy," Lim clarifies. Elusive, shy, even distant and aloof--he does not seem like a designer for these times of red carpets and paparazzi, social climbing and social media. "If you're giving all the time to the flashbulbs, to the people at the parties, it's exhausting," he says of his choice to stay mostly off the circuit. He avoids Facebook and Twitter. In conversation, he often deflects prying questions with one-liners that seem direct but are cryptic in retrospect. He once defined his style as "classic but twisted." What does that even mean?
Whatever it is, shoppers have loved it. Lim's style has, in just six years, fueled a fashion engine that is on target to drive $60 million in revenue this year. Along with his original womenswear collection, he now does menswear, childrenswear, swimwear, accessories, even lingerie. But the genius of 3.1 Phillip Lim isn't found only in the design of the clothes; you can also spot it on the price tag. Tomoko Ogura, women's fashion director of Barneys Co-op, says,"He's a pioneer in terms of bringing a level of sophistication and a true integrity to design at the contemporary price point." In other words, the clothes are made well, look good, and won't cost you a month's wages--a troika in fashion that's all too rare.At 38, Lim finds himself both a commercial and critical darling. In 2007, the Council of Fashion Designers of America presented him with its Swarovski award for womenswear; this year, he was a finalist for menswear. And on September 2, a day after his birthday, GQ Chinamade him its 2011 designer of the year. Fashion-criticism doyenne Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune has praised the "careful craftsmanship" of his work, calling it "dynamic" and "energizing." And, of course, he has his requisite celebrity following. "He designs so beautifully," says actress Rachel Bilson, who last year cohosted, with Vogue, a first-anniversary fete for Lim's L.A. store. "There is always a brilliant nod to femininity with a touch of edge."
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