Derek Lam

With only two collections under his belt, San Francisco native Derek Lam is already on the fast track to becoming one of the top fashion designers in the world. Lam studied at Parsons prior to joining Michael Kors for twelve years, then launched his own namesake company in 2002, quickly becoming not only a media and retailer darling, but was also widely recognized by his own peers for his talent. Recently he was nominated Best Emerging Ready to Wear Designer of the Year for the prestigious CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America), considered to be the Oscars of the fashion world.

How has your collection evolved?
I’m still a new designer. I’m still defining, “What do I want to present and what does Derek Lam mean?” To have my Spring 2004 line received so positively reinforced my idea to just go with your gut, with what you love, and continue that as my signature.

How would you describe your signature style?
What I love to present is something that is cinematic, romantic, feminine, but keeps a modern appeal that fills a modern woman’s lifestyle. The romantic feminine is a little more eclectic as it gives it more of a twist.

Has growing up in San Francisco influenced your collection?
There’s a certain refinement. You have to feel dressed up because you’re living in a very polished and elegant city. At the same time, there is a real sense that it is very liberal with the whole bohemian aspect. It’s really that dichotomy. I think it’s very modern. That’s what I strive for – having something that’s balanced, elegant and refined, but looking at it from a left-of-center point of view.

What was your inspiration for Fall 2004?
Spring and Fall 2004 were both like turn of the century Vienna looking through the eyes of artists. It was not Imperial Grand Vienna – the world capital at the time – but seeing it through the hippies of that era. Like the artist Klimt, and the city of Bohemia, which was where the term “Bohemians” came from. These were the artists, the refugees who went to Paris and Vienna – the hippies, the real flower children of the era, and they were termed “Bohemians.” This became a lifestyle and a point of view.

What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
It’s a very difficult and tough business to be in, because there are just so many demands. It’s not just creative and artistic demands, but it’s also a commercial enterprise you’re getting into. It’s learning your craft, learning that it is commercial, and then still loving that it is really important. The thing with fashion is that you live and die by the sword, because every six months you have to come up with a different collection. Make sure you have a really good support structure to help you along, and make sure you’re not designing pretty clothes no one wants or can’t make available to people.

Who do you see as a muse or icon?
I look at my friends, my contemporaries and the people I surround myself with, because I obviously love them and am influenced by their lifestyle and their outlook on life. If I had to name someone, it would be Uma Thurman. She’s always got something on that is individual and she always looks like she has fun with it. Which is so important in clothing now, you can’t take it too seriously. You really should be wearing what suits your life, your personality and think about it as a creative outlet.

Which are your favorite pieces from Fall 2004?
I definitely love the metal crystal mesh dress. It’s a total fantasy. It’s a perfect blend of modern technology with Old World. Even though its probably one of the least wearable dresses because of the weight, so many people have expressed that they would love to wear it. But then again if you’re in a war zone, it’s probably bulletproof. It’s the bulletproof evening gown!

What do you see in your future?
We’re still small so we’ll hopefully grow the number of stores that carry the collection. I really want to keep the collection small and focused so that each piece is special, so that the customer can come in and say, ‘That’s something I can’t buy anywhere and I need to have it.’ What’s so important to me is the quality of the clothes that becomes timeless. And you can see that there’s the best craftsmanship you can find in clothing, and to carry that over into handbags and shoes would be a great dream for next fall. You can get a total look and a total picture of what the world of Derek Lam is all about.

– Hillary Latos

Reading by Lena, who has no idea this palm belongs to Derek Lam

1. His libido can overrule his common sense – and frequently does!

2. This is a lover, not a fighter. He will be the true love of someone’s life. Possibly the love of several people’s lives – he will attract that kind of overwhelming attachment.

3. Very spontaneous, which will get him into a number of interesting situations in life. Also very lucky – which will get him back out of those situations in one piece.

4. This is not a “law-abiding” citizen. Not any law, legal or not. Wears plaids with stripes. Would like to disbelieve in the law of gravity and may challenge it by creating impossible stacks and piles of things.

5. Strong-willed, stubborn, dominant. He will do things HIS way as he is not a compromiser.

6. He will make his fortune young and it will be sufficient unto his needs. After that, he’ll just have fun.

7. An interesting conversationalist (warning – makes sudden stops and swerves) and well able to carry on a few simultaneous conversational threads without losing track of them or becoming confused.

8. Well-balanced emotionally. Does not easily take offense or deeply dwell on problems. He is, however, easily excited by ideas and vastly enthusiastic, with a tendency to burst out laughing at unexpected moments.

9. Wow! This guy is all over the place! Many talents, many projects – all at the same time.


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