DURING SUMMER From a closing pandemic, fashion designer Phillip Lim moved his studio from anodyne Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan to the center of bustling Chinatown. For him, this was the right thing to do at a time when China’s historic environment was rocked by racism, violence and economic depression. Mr. Lim, whose Chinese family survived the Cambodian genocide and landed in Southern California when he was a child, wanted to be present in a community he said “felt at home.” Now she walks down Baxter Street every day, checks in with shop owners and eats chicken pho in Nha Trang One and pork in Bo Ky. He talks about the traditional goldsmiths at the New Top Jewelery shop. Speaking from his home near Soho, Mr Lim said, “Creativity still comes from here. Beauty is still born from here. “
It was a natural move for a respected designer who is increasingly recognized as an organizing force in the Asian-American community and beyond. “If you look at the last 20 posts on my Instagram, it looks like I’m an activist,” he said. “Looks like it has nothing to do with fashion anymore.”
Mr. Lim has been raising awareness about anti-Asian racism and xenophobia for more than a year. He first appeared on CNN to sound the alarm in February 2020 after being rocked by news that an elderly man in San Francisco was attacked while collecting cans. He returned to speaking on the network a year later, as violence against Asian-Americans continued to escalate. Then came this week the murder of eight people including six women of Asian descent in the Atlanta area, whose investigations are still ongoing. Mr. Lim described the news that rippled through “three different group chats about Asian excellence: ‘Asian Avengers’, ‘Slaysians’ and ‘Go Fund Good Stuff'” as “a blow to the gut.” “You can feel a collective sense of loss,” he said. “And we just got up and this means more than ever, this [activism] more important than our daily work. “
Just this week, Mr. Lim hosts and speaks at a virtual event called “Doing Something About It: Conversations about Our Culture, Community and Collective Strengths”. The Asian American and Pacific Islander Community Fund, which he co-founded with Go Fund’s head of marketing Me Musa Tariq, raised over $ 2 million in donations. The fund, which raises money and supports the grassroots organization AAPI, was developed over two weeks after organizers finished work. Because Go Fund Me is based in California, for Mr. Lim means coming in at 9pm to do the hard work of setting up a charity venture.
Often, those late evenings were followed by early morning gear for his line, 3.1 Phillip Lim. The name of the company, which he launched in 2005 with his friend and business partner Wen Zhou, shows the age of the two founders when they started: 31. The brand occupies a great place in American fashion: affordable yet low-key luxury; interesting but not very designed. Mr. Lim has won awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) for women’s wear, men’s wear and accessories. Her most recent fall collection is typical of her approach to high-end sportswear: The finish is a combination of squishy, downy stitches and a sleek light blue cardigan.
Having found his plot creatively, over the years Mr. Lim remains on track and focused on growing his business. She explains, “When you work in fashion, people are always like, ‘Stick with fashion, just make beautiful things.’ … You can never mix business with politics because you become less neutral. . ” Now, she realizes, “I can’t separate the world of fashion from the reality of what happens to our people.”
On the ancient idea that clothes should speak for themselves, he said, “Hello, that customer has left the building. You have to speak up, you have to get up front and be the face of the brand because your customers need to know what your point of view is, what your values are, what you stand for. “Mr. Lim insists that her current brand is not about “physical beauty” and more about “beauty in shared values.” He continued, “I can no longer separate Phillip people from the Phillip Lim brand.”
One of these values-based fashion models is the conscious outdoor company Patagonia, which Mr. Lim to partner in “dream collaboration”. He explains, “Once you have that courage as a brand, it starts to automatically change your marketing and branding strategy. And in the end, your business will get better for it. ”
Mr. Lim has already started introducing causal driven clothing, with “New York, Tougher than Ever,” a project he launched last year with creative director Ruba Abu-Nimah. The initiative provides periodic T-shirts, T-shirts, tote bags and key chains decorated with slogans including “New York, Tougher than Ever” and “Stop Asian Hate,” with 100% of the net income going to various charities. The lines shift focus depending on what’s happening in the world; Last September they released “Beirut.” Tougher than Ever “hoodies in English and Arabic after a huge explosion occurred in Lebanon.
As the youngest of six children raised by refugees, Mr. Lim said, “I work hard to make sure I don’t forget where I came from.” When she was growing up, her mother, Hannah, was a full-time mother, but also a full-time tailor. Reflecting on her plate being too full, she remembers the plate and wonders how she arranged it. “I do this because I want to. He’s doing this because he has to. “
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