When Derek Lam debuted his namesake collection during New York fashion week in the fall of 2003, the fashion press declared him an overnight success. Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman snatched up the casually chic line and a few months later the American designer nabbed a nomination as a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist. But Lam wasn't exactly a newcomer to the industry. After graduating from Parsons the New School for Design in 1990, the San Francisco native spent 12 years in the design trenches at other houses, many of them at Michael Kors.
He has said that Kors taught him "American classics 101," and a similar easy glamour infiltrates Lam's designs. Among his signature looks are the trenchcoat rendered in cotton or trimmed in fox and evening dresses from a short silk georgette cocktail number with handkerchief sleeves to a showstopping, flowy one-shoulder gown. Lam excels at updating looks from other eras, be it a seventies-style silk romper or drop-waist shirtdresses inspired by hippie California beach towns of the late sixties.
Since his auspicious debut, Lam hasn't lost momentum, expanding into accessories, shoes, and eyewear. In 2005, he won the CFDA's Swarovski Perry Ellis Award for emerging talent. The following year, Italian luxury house Tod's appointed him creative director, responsible for overseeing its ready-to-wear line in addition to continuing to design a collection of bags and shoes. In 2007, he took home another CFDA award, this time for Accessory Designer of the Year. And in 2008, Lam celebrated his five-year anniversary.
Derek Lam: Spring 2009
Runway, backstage, and front-row footage from the NYC show.