Where They Were Then: Phillip Lim
If you can believe it, there was a time before Phillip Lim. There was an era when his classic-but-surprising line was not in every single store you entered—somehow attracting you to it despite its prevalence. He had his first runway show a mere six years ago, and, in length of a senatorial term, he has grown a massive, massive business with flagships in New York, L.A., Seoul, Singapore, and Tokyo. Here’s how he did it. —sunny
1973 - Phillip Lim is born in Thailand to Chinese parents—his mom’s a seamstress, and his dad’s a professional poker player—who move their clan to Cambodia months later.
1974 - A year after his birth, his parents uproot the family again, this time to Orange Country, California. Seth, Summer, Ryan, and Marissa welcome him with open arms. Or something.
1988 - Phillip begins playing tennis the summer after eighth grade. Upon hearing that the tennis brand Prince would sponsor the player on the team with the most potential, Lim, only a freshman, challenges the team’s star and wins. As he tells Fast Company, “I don’t know if I was good, but I was determined.”
1991 - Lim enrolls at CSU Long Beach to study business. As he tells Esquire, “Coming from a traditional Asian-American background, there were a couple things I could be: a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, or a businessperson…So I majored in business.” With a year left before graduation, he realizes he hates business and switches to home ec with a focus on fashion merchandising. #rebellion
1998 - While working retail at Barneys in Beverly Hills, he unpacks a delivery from Katayone Adeli and instantly wants to work for her. He applies for an internship and becomes a design assistant within two years—a gig he’s able to land without even knowing what a portfolio is.
2000 - When Adeli moves to New York, Lim decides to stick in out in L.A., ultimately launching Development—“a collection of simple clothes for girls in their twenties,” as he tells New York magazine—with Andy Crane and Stuart Gaddis.
2004 - Creative clashes at Development lead to his departure. His friend Wen Zhou flies him out to New York, tells him (per New York mag) “I’m tired of you crying,” and throws down $750,000 for Lim to do his own company. Their mutual age—31— gets woven into the name for the line, ensuring we can never forget when it all started.
2005 - 3.1 Phillip Lim lands at NYFW with his debut collection for fall 2006. In Vogue, Anna Wintour later claims that Lim has revolutionized fashion by creating contemporary designer clothing that girls can buy “without breaking the bank.” Not bad, not bad.
2007 - Lim introduces men’s, kids’, and eyewear lines—and opens his first store in Soho. And! He wins the CFDA Swarovski Award for emerging talent in womenswear, beating out Thakoon Panichgul and Rodarte. NBD.
2008 - Celebrities—Rachel Bilson! Natalie Portman! Sarah Jessica Parker! Beyoncé!—wear his designs. Lauren Conrad name drops him on The Hills.
2010 - Lim works with Kanye West on costumes for his short film, “Runaway.” Sorry, guys: The insane, feathered looks aren’t Lim’s. Fast-forward to the the sleek white-and-black tuxedo jacket Kanye is wearing.
2011 - Word is a Hong Kong store will open by the end of the year—make that six flagships. Plus, annual sales are expected to hit a whopping $60 million. Holla.