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EXCLUSIVE: Phillip Lim on Being Ephemeral, Elegant, and Exploratory

Phillip Lim may have launched his now globally successful line at age 31 (hence 3.1 Phillip Lim as the brand name) but to hear him tell it, his start as a designer came much younger. “It all started when I was four, and very cognizant of just clothes,” the designer tells Gilt StyleFile. Coming from a seamstress mother who was a Chinese immigrant and a professional poker player father, the first generation American grew up in Southern California with expectations of fulfilling the American dream and becoming “a doctor, lawyer, maybe a businessman.” Who knew all those years ago in Orange County that Phillip Lim would indeed grow up to be such a successful entrepreneur, producing over ten collections a year for men and women, with stores scattered in cities all over the globe including NYC, Seoul, Tokyo, and yes, Los Angeles?

But it’s still only the beginning for the creative force as he enters the seventh year of his brand and plans the next phase of his business. “I am 38 now and I still feel very exploratory,” Lim says. “So I think in the next five years it’s along the same lines of exploring what we’ve done, and refining it and improving it and establishing it more.” But even as Lim defines a global brand, he continues to defy easy labeling, sliding between highly coveted pieces like his 31 Hour Bag and comic book-inspired Fall 2012 collection (more on that later). And, it turns out, it’s intentional that Lim avoids the easy monikers that press is so often willing to give young designers. “There’s a whole school of tricksters, this whole philosophy of doing things that people can’t catch and label. I like that… I’m still learning about what my tagline is.”

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