Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

f you came of age in the 1990s, your wish list would have in­cluded a group of Amer­i­can de­sign­ers you con­sid­ered to be a newly grownup girl’s sar­to­rial best friends. The likes of Donna Karan, Ralph Lau­ren and Calvin Klein pro­vided the key pieces and sem­i­nal mo­ments in the wardrobes of women of that era as they en­tered the work­place, hit the town and em­barked on their adult lives. Step for­ward 10 years and a new guard of Amer­i­can sports­wear kings took up the man­tle when it came to de­liv­er­ing the es­sen­tials for smart, young work­ing women all over the world—de­sign­ers such as Rag & Bone, Alexan­der Wang, The Row and The­ory, all founded in the mid noughties, and all of whom serve as key names in fash­ion to­day. Lead­ing their charge was Phillip Lim, who re­cently cel­e­brated 10 years in busi­ness.

Lim was part of this van­guard of new Amer­i­can de­sign­ers who saw a gap in the mar­ket for well-de­signed, more rea­son­ably priced cloth­ing—and moved on it, with huge suc­cess. His ideas back in 2005, when he launched his 3.1 Phillip Lim la­bel in New York at the age of 31, were rev­o­lu­tion­ary, and his ap­proach carved a new path for readyto-wear. “When we started out, my busi­ness part­ner said, ‘What do you want to do? We can do any­thing you want,’” he ex­plains of the process in­volved in com­ing up with his big idea. “I said, ‘I think we should model the clothes after peo­ple like us, peo­ple that are just start­ing out with lim­ited funds but big de­sires. Why don’t we just take a stab at that and try and ap­proach highly de­signed clothes at a re­ally ac­ces­si­ble price point?’ There was re­ally noth­ing like it, and it caught on. Peo­ple were like, ‘Wow!’”

Catch on it did, with re­tail­ers, the fash­ion in­dus­try and his con­tem­po­raries all scram­bling to be­come part of this new, more demo­cratic ap­proach. The Coun­cil of Fash­ion De­sign­ers of Amer­ica awarded Lim the 2007 gong for Emerg­ing Ta­lent in Womenswear, just a year after he de­buted his first col­lec­tion; stores cre­ated whole sec­tions ded­i­cated to this new, well-priced cat­e­gory; women clam­oured for his pieces; and his peers sat up and took no­tice.

Within a cou­ple of years, a whole new sta­ble of Amer­i­can de­sign­ers had emerged that de­liv­ered a clean, sporty, youth­ful aes­thetic for women who wanted high

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