Like most designers, Adam Lippes has a creative team with whom he develops his collections. Unlike many, for spring 2021, he also engaged an outside advisory board of sorts: his clients. While most designers who stay in business for more than 10 minutes pay attention to their clients’ preferences, requests and desires, typically as indicated by sales, Lippes has very direct contact with customers. In fact, on Tuesday, he Zoomed into an appointment at his office from his apartment because he’s quarantining after a trip to Dallas, where he had a series of one-on-one client appointments at The Conservatory. “I love to sell. I have to sell,” he said. This season, he solicited input on the front end, before starting his design process. He contacted a few top clients and posed an essential question: “What do you want? I know you don’t need, but what do you want?” The short answer: “To be dressed up and comfortable.” More broadly, Lippes’ client council got specific — they called for relaxed shapes, including chic “house dresses,” and plenty of cotton and silk. As for event clothes: No thank you, not now. Their most recent purchases hang in the closet, unworn.
Lippes took that messaging to heart. He’d been on a similar wavelength anyway, and thought back to his first collection, in which he focused on relaxed refinement in clothes meant to last. With that template in mind, including that collection’s neutral palette of black, white, copper and browns, with a touch of blue and pink, he went to work. He came up with a beautiful, fresh collection which, in a tight range (roughly half the size of a typical lineup) offers plenty of diversity in clothes that, he said, go from work Zoom to at-home entertaining with a grocery-store run in between. If he lost some credibility in frozen foods, the point is well taken: These clothes radiate polished ease.
A recurring shirt theme showed up variously as a sweeping, button-front caftan, its giant floral pattern designed and hand-painted in-house; a trim, elastic-waist leather dress and a floral-bordered camp shirt worn with a copper-hued pantsuit, its jacket cinched slightly with waist ribbons. Those ribbons were another motif, adding a touch of flirtation to crisp shapes. So, too, the huge floral pattern, its ebullient scale restrained in tones of black and brown. Nor was that the only floral rendering. Lippes showed dream sweats in black lace bonded to blue fleece banded in ribbed cashmere.
Like so many designers, quarantine afforded Lippes ample time to think, including about ways to develop his brand. For some time jewelry had been a back-of-mind glimmer, and he decided to go for it here. His debut collection, made in Rhode Island, features signet rings, pillbox pendants and necklace-brooches inspired by 18th-century porcelain flowers that play back to the collection’s dominant print.
For all its ease, this collection implies deft precision of thought and execution. Lippes attributed its highly considered charm to both the rumination time afforded by lockdown and the collaborative wellspring of getting back to work in the studio. “It’s not a way to design,” he said of quarantine. “My team is [at the studio]. Our sitting and hemming and hawing is the most important thing we do in fashion. We can talk about a blouse for four days, but it gets us somewhere. You can’t do that on Zoom. On Zoom, you just want to get off.” Good old, in-person creative collaboration — hear! Here!