Far from the (still) blustery streets of New York, style enthusiasts gathered in balmy Miami to celebrate the opening of the 3.1 Phillip Lim boutique at Saks Bal Harbour. But this was no ordinary ribbon-cutting. Instead, the iconic Raleigh Hotel, smack dab in the heart of the South Beach’s Deco district, served as the perfect backdrop for guests to toast Lim and his geode-inspired spring collection.
While the designer schmoozed with guests, a performance by New York-based indie duo MS MR added an extra dose of city-cool. What could be better? Oh right, this: the evening benefited the National YoungArts Foundation, a charity devoted to discovering and aiding the next generation of artists. As the beachfront celebration came to a close, Lim chatted about his inspirations and how he spends his spare time (you know, when he’s not changing the fashion landscape).
There was a strong allusion to nature in your spring collection. What inspired a return to the elements?
Lim: There’s always a nod to nature and natural surroundings in the collections – I guess it comes from my California upbringing. I grew up by the water and living in New York now, that’s something I always reflect on.
As a designer, you’re well-immersed in the world of art & culture. What are you loving outside of fashion right now?
Lim: I’m renovating my apartment so I’m looking at marbles, textures and surfaces, fixtures and fittings all the time, it’s taken over my life! I’m also counting down the days for the weather to be warmer again so I can go paddle boarding again.
You’re thought of as a New York designer, but are you taking any fashion cues from your travels—both for work and pleasure—around the country and world?
Lim: Always – I try really hard to always be present wherever I am and that lends itself to being inspired by everything around me. It’s never really a literal reference though. I always try to translate things in a subtle way.
What advice would you give to someone breaking into the fashion industry right now? What advice did you hear when you were starting out?
Lim: I think now the only advice to give is that you will need to know exactly what you want to be – it’s really tempting to be led astray and also get wrapped up in everything so I always think that being grounded and focused makes for good advice, in any endeavor!
Menswear is on a bit of an upswing of late. And don’t take it from us (or the men’s fashion mags, for that matter): look no further than the inveterate success of one Billy Reid. Since his surprise win of the 2010 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award (beating boldfacers Joseph Altuzarra, Eddie Borgo and Prabal Gurung, no less), Reid has become one of menswear’s leading lights, all from his home base in tiny Florence, Alabama. Now, as his collection finally arrives at Saks Fifth Avenue, he’s coming back to where it all began.
Saks New York welcomed Reid on Wednesday night as he launched his Spring/Summer 2014 collection accompanied by a Q&A with Esquire Fashion Director Nick Sullivan. Beforehand, the designer chatted with us about the menswear resurgence and what Saks has meant to his career (spoiler: it’s meant a lot).
Menswear seems to matter more than ever right now. Do you agree?
Reid: Totally. There’s been really passionate editorial support throughout menswear recently. In the last five years or so, people are really getting out the information online. All of us in menswear have benefited.
And what does that exposure do?
Reid: Really, it ushers the customer along. The younger generation cares and stays on top of it—they know the brands, they know the designers, and they care about quality. They follow that stuff. People pay attention and thank goodness men pay attention to it now.
Saks Fifth Avenue is kind of where it all began for you, isn’t it?
Reid: I started my career here. I was going to school in Dallas and I got a job at Saks. They put me in men’s suits because I knew a little bit about it. I worked with these guys in their 50s and 60s—veteran menswear, made-to-measure guys.
Sounds like a good education.
Reid: Working at Saks was unbelievable. At that time, Ralph Lauren was starting to get big. Tommy Hilfiger had just started. Armani…Versace…I got to see all of them working at Saks, studying those collections and working with those companies. I learned from some really great people working there. I had no plan going in, but those years at Saks really laid the foundation for a lot of things.
It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been having a Donna Karan moment for three decades now and luckily it shows no signs of stopping. To celebrate the label’s 30th anniversary and the launch of our Bal Harbor store’s designer floor renovation, Saks Fifth Avenue hosted Donna for a few days of sun and fun with the South Florida fashion crowd.
And a busy few days it was. Thursday afternoon found Donna and newly-minted Saks President Marigay McKee at the SLS South Beach hotel, lunching with clients and enjoying an intimate Q&A discussion. Later in the evening, cocktails were served alongside an exclusive runway showing of Karan’s Spring 2014 collection. Invited guests—including the ever-photogenic Adriana Lima—took in the gauzy gowns and boho prints, afterwards indulging in a little bubbly and DJ beats.
Friday morning, customers visited Saks Bal Harbor’s newly renovated Donna Karan boutique to shop that spring collection at a trunk show benefiting the Women of Tomorrow, a Miami-based mentoring program. (After all, is there a more empowering female role-model than Karan?) As her Florida sojourn came to an end, we caught a few minutes with the designer to chat about her latest inspirations and spring getaway plans.
In your spring show, we saw a lot of blue, terracotta, leather & geometric prints. What was your inspiration?
Where is your girl going?
Karan: Spring was a journey – literally. I went to India in search of a particular scarf, which ultimately I never found. What I did find was a world of color, pattern and texture – all created with the artisan hand. I took the many hand-blocked scarves I found and twisted and sliced them into dresses and skirts that look effortless and breezy. I also played with sunbaked leather the color of terracotta and embellished it with grommets and jigsaw patterns. Though the journey started in India, it quickly came home to New York in a chic urban wardrobe that takes her anywhere she’s going.
Now that it’s starting to warm up, what are your plans for spring? Any getaways?
Karan: I have a million projects going on with my design work, my foundation Urban Zen, as well as helping my daughter with her new restaurant in Tribeca. The thing I’m most desperate to do is travel, and I’m trying to plan some trips for April. I’m also hoping to have a yoga retreat in Parrot Cay where I have a home.
Where (or what) are you looking to for inspiration at the moment?
Karan: Inspiration is all around me. New York fuels everything I do – the energy, the excitement, the buildings, lights, the colors. The view out the windows of my design studio, for example, never fails to take my breath away. Sure, I can go to India and be mesmerized, but ultimately it always comes back to New York.
You started as an assistant designer and worked your way up. What advice do you have for aspiring designers looking to make it in fashion industry?
Karan: The best advice I can give is to get a job in retail. Get to know your customer – what she likes, what she needs, how she wants her clothes to fit her body. Yes, you need the technical training to make the clothes, but you also need to get in that dressing room and understand the woman you hope to dress.