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