Phillip Lim on His New Saks Shop-In-Shop, Toddlers and A Tribe Called Quest

Phillip Lim  Richard Chai
Photo: Billy Farrell Agency
Phillip Lim and Richard Chai at Saks.

Phillip Lim was surrounded by well-wishers last night at Saks Fifth Avenue for the opening of his new shop-in-shop at the retailer's NYC flagship. After saying hi to pals like a Supreme sweatshirt-clad Richard Chai, who bro-hugged him right before we spoke, Lim expounded further on his ever-growing business and his love of hip-hop.

But first, we had to ask about his collaboration with artist Nobuhiro Nakanishi, whose cool, transparent pieces hung in the store windows and decorated Lim's mini-shop. How did he and Nakanishi link up? "The truth? The Internet," Lim said somewhat abashedly. "We were looking for someone to work with and came across his work. The whole concept was finding someone whose medium was able to bring the outdoors indoors. What I love about his work is, it’s such a simple concept, but it feels infinite at the same time. Literally, you feel like you could reach out and grab clouds," he added, gesturing towards the installation. Indeed, the pastel works on display had a lot in common with Lim's airy, sherbet-hued Spring 2012 collection, which was already being browsed by eager shoppers.

As for the shop-in-shop, his first in the U.S., Lim said, "They’ve never allowed anyone to do a shop like this. We’ve been courting each other for a while now, and really they had the courage to just let us try." Considering Lim recently launched e-commerce and operates his own standalone stores, what role does this play for his brand? Lim considered the question carefully. "It’s like a family unit: big brother, middle child, baby. You support each other because all the buys are so different too. It’s like, listen, we don’t have it right now, but Saks has it, or our main store has it, or try e-commerce. The collection is so wide and varied that it depends on the context."

He added, "We’ve been in business for like 6 years now. If you relate that to human terms, it’s like a kindergartner! We’re really just finding our way and finding out who we are and who we will become. Just testing and experimenting."

Among the baby steps? Making it into the rap lexicon via a shout-out in a Rick Ross verse (not to mention on tracks by Lupe Fiasco and Lim pal Kanye West.) So, has Lim scored an invite onto the Boss's yacht yet? "I’m not friends with Rick Ross, but he put us in his songs. We’re, like, immortalized in his music. It’s amazing. I’m a huge hip-hop fan...For the hip-hop crowd to take notice, it’s pretty phenomenal because they’re really picky, and they could have anything, you know?" Is there anyone in the rap world he's dying to get his designs on? "I would love to dress A Tribe Called Quest. They’re amazing."

Before being swept away by his public, Lim reflected of the crowd, “It’s like a double-edged sword, because you’re so thrilled that you want to meet everyone, but it’s almost like, at the same time, everyone’s calling your name. You’re like, ‘I’m sorry, I’m so rude.' You’re talking to 4 people at one time, and you’re like, ‘Who do I look at?’ Trust us, there are worse dilemmas to have.