A Brand and a Soul: Phillip Lim

4 years ago by


Erik Melvin

In Partnership With THE OUTNET

Phillip Lim is such an inspiration to me. Not only do I love his clothes and the spirit of his brand, but I admire him greatly. He’s incredibly talented, humble, fun and he has that spiritual thing about him that touches me in a very special way. You’ll see! He also managed, with his friend and partner Wen, to build his brand from the ground up while staying true to himself and his aesthetic. Talk about amazing!

After being in business for over 10 years, he’s learned a thing or two and I thought he’d be the perfect person to have on our very first live podcast episode! Yes, Iive! I want to thank the beautiful NeueHouse in New York and our partner THE OUTNET for making this all possible. Alright let’s meet Phillip!

pmf the outnet phillip lim garance dore photo

pmf the outnet phillip lim garance dore photo

On following what excites him…
I was so intoxicated by memories and visuals, I didn’t care. I wanted to find where I belonged. I didn’t have a dream. Some people have dreams early on, and that’s amazing and you should follow you dreams. I just had to follow what interested me and excited me. The thought of putting on new clothes or turning something into something else, that’s like winning the lottery to me.

On being excited about wearing the clothes his mother altered for him to look like his idols…
I was so excited about the transformation of my clothes, when I was in elementary school and throughout all of my school years, I would be so excited because I was going to wear this outfit, this hair and then I would get dressed the night before and then I would sleep in the clothes! For real. I learned how to sleep still, like a mummy!

On being embarrassed by his father when getting picked up from tennis…
Everyone’s parents are very nice, Mr. and Mrs. Smith with perfect station wagons. My dad comes up in a pimp mobile and wearing gold, like me now, I guess I am becoming him. He wore chiffon shirts, had an afro and matching boots to belt to wallet. He was such a playboy, it was insane! When you’re in tennis outfits, trying to assimilate, that’s the last thing you want for your father. It was embarrassing!

On what he wants his brand to be for his customers…
I want to be your best friend. I want to be that friend who’s there when you’re not feeling well, when you have a hot date, when you want to show your ass off, when you want to stand taller and when you want to be comfortable. I want to be there for you. And to me, that’s truly empowerment, as long as we do it right and to honor what is truly you. You can be as sexy or as conservative as you want, I don’t really care, I just want you to be you.

On how they chose the brand name 3.1 Phillip Lim…
I was 31 years old and my business partner was also 31 so we had that in common. She said you have to put your name in front and I was like, no, no, I’m not doing that. I don’t like that. So I said, we’re both 31, let’s put a number there and I felt like I could hide behind the number and people would only see that. This was right at the height of online and dotcom and when launched us, we always ended up at the top because they would categorize by number first. Everyone thought it was genius and I am like yeah! At the end of the day, it’s a funny story because it was just so naive and I was just trying to hide behind a couple numbers we had in common.

On the advice his seamstress mother gives him about designing…
I tell her, mom, anything you want – what do you want. She says, “you just have to remember, skirts not too short! Cover everything, you have to respect women!”

pmf the outnet phillip lim garance dore photo

pmf the outnet phillip lim garance dore photo

pmf the outnet phillip lim garance dore photo

On the woman he has in mind when he designs…
The first thing I think about is dignity. Dignity in women and men. The second thing I think about is fun. I am an undercover snob. I say that because it’s a good word to me. It’s about dignity and respecting yourself. If you respect yourself, you respect other people. I always start the collections thinking about the more dignified way of being sexy, street or anything. The woman I work for, that we bow down to, she’s the everyday heroine. She’s anybody and could be anything she wanted to be.

On his friends asking for his opinion…
I’m trained to do this. I won’t tell you what I see unless you ask. But if you ask, be ready for it!

On not wanting to be described in just three words…
You know what, you can do whatever you want, but you’re not going to label me in three words. I’m more than three words. There’s seven days, I can be anybody I want. Today I’ll be this and tomorrow I’ll be another thing, but what I have in common is the spirit, my soul and my dignity.

On how developing and growing a brand is a work in resistance…
It’s kind of like when you exercise. You use resistance weights to build a stronger body. I think what Garance is saying is, yes, the more comfortable you get in your skin and more you know yourself, it’s more about editing out and not just about bringing in. Hopefully by then you know more about who you are, what you do and what you don’t do.

A Brand and a Soul: Phillip Lim

pmf the outnet phillip lim garance dore photo

pmf the outnet phillip lim garance dore photo

pmf the outnet phillip lim garance dore photo

pmf the outnet phillip lim garance dore photo

On what he’d do if he were not a designer…
I’d be a farmer. But somehow near the ocean! I really thought about this, and I thought I could be a seaweed farmer!

On how he feels about sustainability…
I am always in turmoil, because we’re a contradiction. We produce collections and I can’t get around that otherwise I’d be out of a job. I always think, you don’t really need this, but I have to produce something and I’m responsible for everyone around me, every single day. My colleagues. And I call them my colleagues, because they are that, they don’t work for me, they are my colleagues. I look around and think if I don’t produce, these guys are gone. People I enjoy working with and feel honored to. I think about the way I started. I just wanted to make a kickass trench coat. Something you wouldn’t throw away. You might tire of it after a couple wears and be interested in something else but you’d never let it go because you’d be crazy. Then you’d bring it back. It’s about making t-shirts, making anything, the smallest to the most extravagant thing, with that idea of I can’t let it go because it’s special. That’s a small way of producing but without throwaway. I also think about resourcing and not trying to be the biggest producer of one thing.

On how he’s changed as a designer since he started his brand…
The more I do this, the more I want to make things I want to wear, not just for show anymore. Things become more humble but if you look deep down inside, they’re more precise. It’s about paying attention to the craft and you have the confidence because you took time to learn it and that is how I evolve. Every day I am learning something new again, but it’s always revolving around lessons that have always been there. Just re-looking at everything. You don’t have to go far or wide. One of my mantras is evolution, not revolutions. Small gestures, not grand things that may never come true. Be kind to yourself and do things in doses you can actually actualize. Let’s be realistic so we don’t let each other down.

On what he loves most about making clothes…
What I love the most about making clothes is that clothes are the most powerful expression of self. Because no matter where you come from, no matter how you got there, no matter where you are, you put on the right clothes, you can be anything you want. In a world where people judge, let’s admit, judge all you want, because I got it! Not me, but it’s true, when you wear something beautiful, judge me, look at me, at least you’re looking at me. It’s true. I come from nothing and yet, through clothes, I am here and that’s why I’m honored to be here.

A Brand and a Soul: Phillip Lim

Special thanks to NeueHouse!
Pardon My French is sponsored by THE OUTNET, one of my favorite places to shop for my favorite designers at a fraction of the price. Super happy for their support, which makes this podcast possible.

Check out items on THE OUTNET website and receive 20% off using the code: SHOP20 valid from today until Thursday, November 10th at midnight.


Add yours
  • I feel like the question about sustainability was left unanswered, and at the same time the most honest possible answer was given…


  • He is adorable. All the more so for the story about his brand’s name–that it was naiveté and not calculation. I love what he says about wanting to make clothes that help us be the best we can be.

  • This was such a fun event! I hope you will do more live taping a in the future :)

  • Christina T. October, 28 2016, 8:33 / Reply

    Yes, he’s lovely, his women’s clothing is lovely too. But it’s insanely unaffordable, at least here in Europe. I feel absolutely no remorse for my head-to-toe zara/h&m wardrobe.. :)

  • Garance’s shoes please?? Love!

  • I loved this interview! I was able to see a complete different side of him and discover him as a person, loved his energy and honesty, very nice guy!

  • What a lovely person. His comments about his parents and understanding that they were coming from a place of love, and what his choice of career meant to them–so insightful! Such an honest and refreshing interview!

From the Archives

Holiday Gifting
  • Holiday Gifting
  • This or That
  • Happy Holidays!
  • #AtelierDoreDoes
  • How To...
Hill City: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Hill City: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Deb Watson’s Guide to Gifting

Deb Watson’s Guide to Gifting

The Gift of Giving Gifts

The Gift of Giving Gifts

lessons in gifting steven alan presents expert series garance dore photos

Lessons In… Gifting