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3.1 Phillip Lim

"Classic with a sense of madness" is how New York designer Phillip Lim once described his work. His knack is for giving accessible, wearable clothes that little something extra: A khaki trench might get military epaulets, a silk blouse might sport an oversize self-tie below the chin.

Lim's 3.1 collection debuted in 2005, and he has quickly distinguished himself as both an editorial and commercial darling. And after just three years, the label is available in more than 250 stores nationwide and in 26 countries (bestsellers include a flower-appliqué T-shirt dress and romantic draped and pleated cocktail fare), and Lim has earned the CFDA's Emerging Designer laurels.

His parents were Chinese immigrants—Mom, a seamstress; Dad, a professional poker player. Lim didn't nurse any aspirations to design, though, until the day he unpacked Katayone Adeli's inventory while working at Barneys in California. Attracted to what he deemed her "no-fuss chic," he immediately tracked down Adeli and landed an internship; that led to a spot on her design team. In 2000, he co-founded the L.A. label Development, then moved to New York in 2004 to start his own venture with his business partner, Wen Zhou. Both were 31 at the time, thus the name 3.1 Phillip Lim.

Lim isn't stopping at womenswear. In 2007, he expanded into menswear, eyewear, and childrenswear, and in 2008 opened freestanding boutiques in Tokyo and Los Angeles, bringing his total to three (including the original, in Manhattan).

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