A little over a week ago, free climbers Kevin Jorgesen and Tommy Caldwell completed the world’s toughest climb by reaching the top of Yosemite’s El Capitan after a grueling 19-day trek. Such dogged determination, slow and steady progress and single-mindedness in goal also characterize Phillip Lim‘s entrepreneurial ethos, as his brand celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
Rock-climbing as a metaphor for life, rather than a straight-up inspiration for a collection, the designer explained before his Paris show. Of course, it is about the state of mind, but this also provided him with a slew of decorative knots as a lifeline throughout the lineup (from belts to shoes, to backpacks and clutches, to knotted into a loose, giant-cell fishnet tee). “Is it safety or subversion?” he mused, pointing alternatively to a gorgeous khaki wool coat simply held shut by a length of rope and the aforementioned fishnet tunic. This theme also helped ground Lim, steering him away from the overbearing bulkiness that distracted in earlier collections. All this sportswear was well distilled into a collection that was as trim and polished as could be expected of any Lim offering. The best looks were no doubt the urbane variations that seemed the simplest, like a thin blouson in a woven knot motif. Likewise, coats and sharp parkas had unmediated appeal.
In general, this all was a reminder of how the designer built his label by connecting deeply with his customer. Even when reaching for the more unconventional, Lim’s designs feel likable and, most importantly, believably wearable. “If you doubt, you fall” is said about mountaineering, and the same can be said about design.