The Real Phillip Lim

Narration by Alex Maeland
Audio by Elphick Wo
Photos by Carmen Chan

Expectations. Perhaps the most simultaneously motivating and crippling aspect of any creative’s professional career.


Phillip Lim launched his eponymous fashion label, 3.1 Phillip Lim in 2004. Quickly becoming a formative player in bridging the gap between streetwear and high fashion, Lim’s influence upon the world of fashion has been incredible. Over the last 15 years, Lim has seamlessly parlayed his inherent design abilities and creative talents into an integral component of a now multi-million dollar business. With each consecutive season, 3.1 Phillip Lim continues be critically and commercially well received.


But, as any creative living and working in a professional context will tell you, balancing what is best for one’s personal creative sustenance versus the brand’s needs and bottom line is an entirely different process. But, if there is anyone who has been able to tap into this harmony, Lim immediately comes to mind. He recently took a month off of work, emails, phone calls, and general day-to-day management of 3.1 in an effort to recalibrate his priorities, creative inspiration and personal goals.


On the final day of his hiatus in May of this past summer, I had the opportunity to sit down with him at his apartment in New York City. Casual and unstructured, our conversation covered everything from his upbringing in Southern California to the changing face of fashion, the business of creativity, cultivating a new generation of design talent, and more.

“I try to live a life that has nothing to do with the life I live – or that I’m supposed to live.”

“My personal gut instinct is to recalibrate and be more profound with the choices that you make. And make it more meaningful. Put more love into it. Put more thought into it. Put more purpose into it. That’s where I want to focus my creative output.”

“You literally had to learn everything by yourself, cause there was no sharing of visuals, so you just had to imagine it.”

Lim’s Yves Klein Blue Cocktail Table.

Lim in his Soho apartment.

Custom jewelry that Lim designed for himself.

“I don’t think anyone wants the challenge of looking different. People now claw to look the same. Maybe it’s a phase.”

Artwork inside of Lim’s apartment.

“The product is the star. What you do is the star. You’re not the star.”

A candid moment during our interview inside of Lim’ living room.