“As an independent, smaller-to-medium-sized brand, it can be paralyzing. We’ve done so much maneuvering to stay alive that when the holidays came, I couldn’t get out of bed,” said Phillip Lim, getting real about how he has been struggling during COVID-19, including closing his headquarters and moving some studio work to the basement of his Great Jones Street store.
“You work hard, you feel like you know the rules and there’s a place you earned, and I don’t think that applies any longer,” he added during a Zoom to discuss his new 3.1 collection.
Just don’t call it pre-fall.
“This is MMJ — May, June, July,” Lim said, noting the 23 looks (60 percent less than he usually produces) are designed to be in-season, high-summer clothes. “Here, and in America, too, all the adults have left the building, and we have been left to our devices to change the paradigm,” said Lim, who last year also released a line of essentials called Live Free.
His latest offering is similarly geared to doing more with less, with one foot in the realm of similarly sporty, stay-at-home wear, the other in the fashion dream.
Technical taffeta is coming on strong in fashion, no exception here; Lim used it on boxing shorts, loose trousers and tops with elastic ruffled necks. With a pair of sneakers or sandals, the black and tan pieces could take one to the farmer’s market or, with Lim’s almond napa go-go boots, out-to-dinner, whenever that happens again.
A lavender taffeta technical strappy slipdress with whimsical box pleat bubble hem also had versatility as a piece that could be layered over a T-shirt, for example. For the dream of really dressing up, Lim has a green-gold animal-patterned micro-sequin-embroidered apron top with bubble hem, and matching low slung trousers.
Throughout, there was lots to wear, now or eventually, including zip-front puff-sleeve blouses, long pleated skirts with his signature geometric edge and knit slip dresses with snake chain straps. A blue-and-white awning stripe dress with handkerchief collar was great, too, with its urban twist on American sportswear.
(On Lim’s sport inspiration, athletic brands take note: his China-exclusive collaboration with Fila ends this year, but he’s looking to continue working on a similar collaboration, ideally in the U.S., too.)
Gloom and doom aside, Lim is ready to roll up his sleeves in 2021.
“I looked back at my last collection, and it was so different from this one. We finally woke up and said, ‘Why do we need those kind of clothes at this time of year?’ This is rebuilding, retooling, and reconnecting to our DNA,” said Lim, who will not show in February as part of whatever is left of New York Fashion Week.
“It’s way too early, and what has happened, speaking for myself, is there’s no support here. It feels like you are left to your own devices to figure it out,” he said. “If that’s going to happen, let’s get back to what America is about — scrappy, DIY, out-of-the box, and not trying to be part of a system that no longer serves us and only serves conglomerates. When we’re being compared to big establishments, we lose our spirit and grit. Let’s get back to that grit because that’s what America is.”