Having dabbled in retailing in the past year, Derek Lam doesn’t seem inclined to “stop at two.”
This story first appeared in the October 19, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Lam opened a 2,800-square-foot flagship on Crosby Street in New York’s SoHo section in 2009 and followed up with a 1,200-square-foot store at 764 Madison Avenue in September. Now the 43-year-old designer is “intrigued by reaching the consumer directly” through more stores, as well as by potential collaborations with retailers “like Topshop,” he told WWD.
Lam made the remarks Friday during an alumni talk at his alma mater, Parsons The New School for Design, where he was joined by another graduate of Parsons’ Class of 1990, Jenna Lyons, president and executive creative director of J. Crew Group Inc.
“The best way to control your own destiny is through direct retail,” Lam said. “I’m really trying to be in touch with the consumer.”
He cited Karl Lagerfeld’s masstige ready-to-wear collection, which will be sold primarily online. “What Karl Lagerfeld is doing — it may not be luxury, but he’s always involved,” said Lam.
In addition to his two stores and his Web site, Lam’s collection is sold at stores including Barneys New York Inc., Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue.
He stuttered briefly when discussing Burberry and its recent live-streaming of its runway show and offer to sell pieces right off the runway on burberry.com. “You can tell already I’m hyperventilating,” he told the students.
While Lam advocated greater closeness to the consumer, Lyons gave much of the credit for J. Crew’s recent success to the company’s understanding of its customer and its own identity.
Lyons began her post-collegiate career at Donna Karan and, although “grateful” for the opportunity, found herself feeling “disconnected” from the upscale label and desirous of a broader audience for her talents. “No one in my family could afford those clothes,” she said of her time at the designer house. “I didn’t feel like I belonged there somehow.”
Lyons moved back to her native California and worked as a waitress for three months until J. Crew hired her.
“You can do anything,” Lyons told the Parsons students. “You can be anyone…but the bar is so high. You have to work hard. Be tenacious.”