Talking with Derek Lam

Derek Lam - Fashion Designer - Interview with Derek LamWho: Fashion designer Derek Lam

Known for: Easy, feminine clothes that combine formal and informal elements and play with proportion

On Display: Lam’s work has been exhibited at the Kennedy Center and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, among other venues.

Stylish Sipping: The designer partnered with Napa Valley’s Cliff Lede Vineyards to create a limited-edition red wine named Poetry by Derek Lam.


How does your aesthetic influence your Resort and Spring 2014 lines?
I think it’s all about a subtle glamour. It’s about a woman who is very relaxed in her skin and wants to express fashion in a modern way—not traditional, yet she’s not out to be someone other than who she is.


Do you have a sense for which looks would be perfect for Palm Beach women, who are elegant in a relaxed way?
From what I’ve heard, it’s a really great collection for them because it’s about color and lightness and how to have texture in two seasons [spring and summer], compared with fall and winter. And it’s fresh.


Derek Lam - Resort and Spring 2014 Collections - Inspiration and aestheticWhat led you to choose these fabrics and colors?
Two things: North African colors and inspiration, but also tropical Africa done in a very modern way. Right now, Africa is a continent that’s very intriguing, and fashion has always been inspired by that.


How do you describe your personal style?
The way I dress is simple. I like that kind of all-American style. I find [the way] James Dean used to dress inspirational.


Which item of clothing or accessories can’t you live without?

Probably a black long-sleeve T-shirt, which is what I’m wearing now. It just takes me from going on a plane to coming to an event and to go to dinner. It’s that great piece that carries me through the day.


What should every woman have in her closet?
You can’t have enough beautiful white shirts. You’ll see it in this collection, just taking a classic white shirt and making it very sensual and interesting. I love that idea that it can be unisex, masculine-feminine.


What trend or style do you hope never returns?

Never say never. Designers and fashion can easily switch on a dime. But I think anything that’s too studied, too belabored—like people used to do bouffant hairdos. Or, I think a poodle skirt is pretty ridiculous.


Derek Lam - 2014 Spring and Resort CollectionsWhat fashion mistake do you see women make?
I see it less and less, but not altering clothing properly and not looking at proportion are probably the biggest things. If you are spending money on something you really love, [it is wise to] pay attention to the details and make it fit properly.


Is there a past era that influences your designs?
The late ’60s, before the whole development of the counter culture, where it was kind of couture meets sportswear. Balenciaga was doing that, where he was taking very formal shapes, then seeing how the street adapts and wears it. I very much love that time period, and it always informs my work. I think every designer has their period of time. And I always say it correlates to when they understood their mothers or parents with a fashion understanding.


How did the Poetry by Derek Lam wine collaboration with Cliff Lede come about?
It was Cliff Lede reaching out. This is probably the preeminent small-scale winery in Napa, very well respected. He was just intrigued about bringing people from different walks of life to inspire. So I went in and did a blend of their very best wines. It was nice to see how it turned out and matured to the point where it was very satisfying.


Poetry by Derek Lam - Wine Collaboration with Cliff Lede VineyardsHow did you approach the packaging?
I wanted to create something timeless and modern. I see a lot of wine that’s overly decorated. I wanted something very straightforward and elegant, packaged so that you can keep it as something to appreciate years from now.


Do you think you would do it again?

If given the opportunity, yes, I would love to, now that I have the wine bug.


What are you reading now?

To be honest, I read four or five books all at once. Sometimes I pick up a book and I’m like: Did I read this already? But the biggest last one was Anna Karenina—intriguing, really fun to read, but oh, God, that’s a task.


Have a secret hobby that would surprise us?

No. I’m particularly lazy when I’m not working.


What are you listening to in your earbuds?

I listen to mostly classical music. I find that the most, not background, it’s soothing and at the same time very mentally stimulating. I love all the Romantics, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky … I just love how lush their work is and how romantic and emotional.


Do you enjoy traveling for your downtime?

Definitely. I travel to Asia a lot, I always try to find a new place to go that’s intriguing, whether it’s Burma or Bhutan or Southeast Asia. Most recently I went to Sri Lanka.

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