Derek Lam Told Us Where He Hangs In S.F. — See You There?

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Derek-embedPhoto: Via Facebook/Derek Lam.
When it comes to womenswear, we know a man who hits all of our sartorial high notes, while doing San Francisco proud in the crazed New York style scene. Derek Lam, the Bay Area native who ventured forth to take over the American fashion industry, returned to the city last week to share notes on his 10 Crosby collection, a new view of your wardrobe basics, and the importance of living in the moment.

While ogling his latest pieces, we tossed some of our most burning questions to the fashion denizen. Unfortunately we didn't get to chat over mimosas at his favorite local spots. Well, there's always next time!

What are your must-hit spots when you come back to San Francisco?
"I always stay at the St. Regis, go [to] Yank Sing, which is the dim sum place, and I always go to Zuni Cafe — those are the musts. And, I'm sure to go to Gump's...all the old-school places."

Do you feel like San Francisco has changed a lot fashion-wise in the last few years, and are you seeing things that inspire you when you come back?
"I think everything is inspiring about San Francisco right now because there is so much happening and it's all about — how do you say this — everybody seems to be looking for a new approach. Whether it's the work they do, or the way they communicate, or the way they live their lives. So, I think that infuses the culture in general. When you think about the importance of food, how much that has influenced the rest of the states, and that having started like 25 years ago. In terms of style, I think San Francisco always had a classic look, and there was a moment, I think, when people were always joking that no one wore anything fashionable, it was all about polar fleece, and I don't see it that way. I think that it's more about adapting to the environment and to a lifestyle."

Amen to that. Can you speak to the wardrobe basics that you believe every woman should own?
"Well, interestingly enough, I really never think of the basics as the key thing. I think that something bold and colorful is the important part of the wardrobe. I love all the new ways of looking at a tailored jacket, like those leather-piped, ivory, and wrap jackets. For me, 10 Crosby is about looking at what everybody understands as familiar — and, how do we give it that twist, the remix to make it look fresh again?"

Speaking of 10 Crosby, would you say the same woman incorporates both your brands into her lifestyle?
"In some cases, yes. But, I think that I look at it more as how I approach it as a designer than who the woman is. Collections are something, for me, that is more in my head, more cerebral. It's about what I'm thinking about — very personal kinds of thoughts about culture, fashion, and design. With 10 Crosby, and why we called it 10 Crosby is because it's a location, it's a place, it's a community. So, I collaborate with an amazing group of designers to say, 'Hey, what's going on in the world right now? What feels really immediate, and how do we bring our aesthetic to those kind of ideas?' It's a little bit more instinctual."

How do you de-stress when decompressing from working on both of your thriving brands?
"I go to the beach. I have a house out by the beach not far from New York City, so that's ultimately the place we run to. My dog, he decompresses me. I think everybody can understand that there's never really kind of that 'aha' moment, or those three weeks, you kind of just have to find it in chunks. Piece together the little pieces, and it's not as sad as it sounds. It's, 'Hey! You've got to live in the moment.'"

Where do you grab inspiration from for different collections?
"It mostly comes from art and architecture. I am really intrigued by the conversation that people have about architecture, especially, and what goes into the thought process because it is also, in a way, expression of a very humanist design. I like that architecture has a very solid long-term projection, where as fashion is very immediate, fast, and changes constantly. I think there is a dialogue that is intriguing to me.

"I am really interested in contemporary art because it blows my mind how important it has become. Everybody seems to be of a certain population that's very in tune with who's the hip artist, and what's the hip thing you need to buy, and who are the gallerists. I collect art, much more individual, quiet, and new artists, but the whole world of contemporary art is really intriguing to me, like the Art Basel."

Have you attended Art Basel?
"I haven't yet, I feel like I'm going to be disappointed in some way. What's intriguing to me is the 'commoditization' of art, but I think also I will be very disappointed. It would be interesting to see how that party will be put together in the way that money is no object and you're dealing with millions of dollars, and it's really just paper, and a frame, and paint — it really has no value except for what we give it."

Are there any gadgets you can't live without?
"Oh, absolutely: my iPad. I could give up my phone, but my iPad, I can't. I stream and I watch all my entertainment on it."

What different angle do you think being a male designer creating for women gives you than being a woman creating for other women?
"Well, I have to say, first of all, it's a really interesting time, because I think the most innovative designers working right now are probably the women in the industry. I'm talking about Miuccia Prada, Phoebe Philo, and Rei Kawakubo of Comme Des Garçons. We don't have to think of ourselves as templates, we can look for other forms of inspiration whether it is, as I said, architecture, because we can't use ourselves. It's really key to understand — if you are designing for women — what they desire.

"I don't have to predicate it on, 'How do I look, or how do I feel?' People have always asked me, 'Will you do a men's collection?' No, I don't want to do men's because it would be all about me. It would be all about my body type, what my neurosis are. I'm not saying that about women, but I think that is something different. But, I must say, the female designers that are at the very top are really the most interesting."