The luxe contemporary label 3.1 Phillip Lim has always felt intensely personal, which it is to its creative director, Phillip Lim, and chief executive officer Wen Zhou. The brand was formed to cater to the two’s own needs and desires to create a modern woman’s wardrobe, and while it may have grown tremendously, evolving into a brand with a global presence, the pair have idiosyncratic advice for people who want to replicate their success — which is to not try to make everything about doing business.
The philosophy is most evident in their Los Angeles boutique — a space that is less of a retail shop and more of an oasis reflecting the brand’s personality. It stocks lighting and furniture brands like BBDW or Atelier, Apparatus and books, simply because, Lim said whimsically, “we love what they do.”
“It’s the opposite of ‘lifestyle’,” said Lim. “It’s the ‘antilifestyle’ because in lifestyle, you find all the things that you need. I’m trying to show you things you don’t need, things you might want. I might show you an artist. It might not be for sale but this artist exists and I love this artist. I might show you a chair that might be one-of-a-kind and I’m not trying to sell it to you because it’s way overpriced but at the same time, it inspired me to create a collection.”
“It’s really appreciation of colleagues of peers of using our platform to champion community and build a community,” he continued. “It’s not necessarily looking at retail where you must sell everything. At the end of the day, when you sell everything, it’s also selling your soul because you’re trapped in this equation.”
“I just found out that we have a tattoo parlor in our L.A. store,” he added, incredulously. “The point of that is you should do unexpected things spontaneously and you should do things that do not fit ‘retail.’ You should do things that resonate to yourself to your tribe and to your community.”
Lim also published a cookbook recently with friend and photographer Viviane Sassen, titled “More Than Our Bellies,” inspired by recipes from the designer’s mother.
“My mom was a traditional housewife who always cooked every single meal, and recently I’ve missed her so much that I created her dishes through just memories, experiences of being with her,” he said.
Once again, he related that this wasn’t a lifestyle move and there was no plan to scale this into something larger that would drive profit.
“I’m not a chef. I’m just a human being trying to nurture and nourish my health with food,” he said. “I love to keep things spontaneous and just keep things pleasure. Sometimes what I’m afraid about, if I can be honest, I think about a lot of things I have so many ideas but they all can be a business and sometimes that’s a bad thing because some things should be purely, purely pleasure and not trying to satisfy a sell through or a strategy.”
Of course, making money and sustaining the business is paramount, but Lim instructs that “a bad way of doing business is you tell me what to do and I do it.”
In contrast, he shared that, “the best way of doing business is let me hear what you have to say, and I’ll let you know what I think about that, and somehow we work out in a way where we satisfy both commerce and execute a in a creative way that is authentic.
“We are all here to have business but I truly believe in conversation, through you know behaving like friends and having the courage to go back to a space where we began — where we just did things because we loved it and we did things to inspire desire,” Lim said.