Phillip Lim’s Experience as an Asian American Designer

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When you think of Phillip Lim, you may immediately picture his fashion brand, 3.1 Phillip Lim, and the iconic pieces associated with it — the Pashli satchel certainly comes to mind, a street style staple for years. Lim has the accolades to show for his success, having won CFDA awards for womenswear in 2007, menswear in 2012, and accessories in 2013. The Thailand-born American designer of Chinese descent has recently joined industry leaders such as Prabal Gurung, Chriselle Lim, and Allure Editor in Chief Michelle Lee to raise awareness around Asian hate crimes and have open conversations on Instagram Live to educate their followers.

“The fashion industry in America does a lot of subtle ‘othering’ into categories like the Asian designers and the Black designers. We’re all just designers, period.”

“I’m not an activist by any means. I’m an Asian American who is now activated,” Lim said when I talked to him about the important work he is doing on his platform. He continued, “I’ve often received messages from people suggesting I stay in my lane as a fashion designer, and that I should not mix my personal beliefs with work, however I think it is important to speak and share your value system with the customer. Gone are the days where we ‘let our clothes speak for themselves.’ Everything is interconnected now. What is professional is also personal. The more we are our authentic selves and commit to doing this work for the greater good, that is where real change comes from.” Lim hopes the dialogue will lead to a steady change of narrative in the fashion industry where our consciousness shifts and we create a standard for what we will no longer accept as a society.

Ahead, read our interview that focuses on his critical efforts in representation, but first read Lim’s fundamental takeaway about the fashion world and think of it as an action item. Most importantly, let it stick with you: “The fashion industry in America does a lot of subtle ‘othering’ into categories like the Asian designers and the Black designers. We’re all just designers, period. We’re human beings with a story that unfolds in the work we do. So, we have to evolve from categorizing people like products of an old and tired system.”



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