wen zhou—in a look from the 3. 1
phillip Lim fall 2011 collection—has
helped the designer build a business
and reconnect with his heritage.
professional poker player. His mother worked as a
seamstress, and both his parents put in long hours.
“It was tough growing up,” Lim remembers. “There
was always food. You always had respect, dignity, and
clean clothes. But the parents, they’re stressed out.
They’re like, You have to figure it out yourself.”
While studying home economics at the University
of California, Long Beach, Lim figured out that his
path would lead to fashion. Working a weekend job
at Barneys New York in Beverly Hills, he came across
a collection by the designer Katayone Adeli—who
was, coincidentally, well known for her allergy to
hype and her enigmatic ways. Her work struck a
chord. He landed an internship with the designer and worked his way up to design assistant.
oN zHou’s desk at 3. 1 p Hi LLip Lim’s New York headquarters, there is a coffee mug plastered
with Lim’s headshot. It reads: phillip lim is my boyfriend. who the fuck are you?
“It was a gag gift from my former assistant,” she says, laughing. “I like to say Phillip and I
aren’t newlyweds anymore.” (They never were in the romantic sense; Lim is gay.)
Later, she chooses to characterize their relationship differently. “Phillip is like my brother,”
she says. “When we first met, I was immediately so fascinated by him. I felt like I knew him
forever. We share the same values with family.”
Like Lim, Zhou is an immigrant. She grew up in a rural town outside of Ningbo, China, which
she describes as “devastatingly poor,” and immigrated to New York at 14. After school each day,
she and her younger sister, Bo, worked in a sweatshop on the eighth floor of 54 Canal St. Her
grandmother was a steam cleaner there. Eventually, her mother and aunt worked there too. Her