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"People think the Internet has no filter but it isn't true. If you want to know what a place is like, you have to go there yourself," Derek Lam told us in explanation of he and VP of design Liz Giardina's recent Seattle/Bellevue trip.
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Lam worked with Michael Kors early in his career and the mainline (Derek Lam) is full of sophisticated high-end sportswear in future-leaning colorways and luxury textiles. The mainline is not sold at Neiman Marcus—perhaps it will be in the future?—so this trip was all about 10 Crosby, Lam's diffusion line which launched in 2011.
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Of late, 10 Crosby has taken on a sort of two-for-one ethos. Separates come ready-paired, like this extremely desirable, vaguely cropped sweatshirt that sits over crisp, cotton poplin shirttails (which are fully formed in an easy tank-shape underneath).
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Lam and Giardina say a "360 view" is vital to the collections they put out for 10 Crosby. This means that as the world travels around a blouse or dress on the female form, the interest points are not limited to the front view. Piping, split drapes, architectural cut-aways, and even exposed zippers come into play on the sides and back. "We're design freaks," the two agree. From home design to cityscapes to interiors and fashion, they study it all and put new and old ideas to good use.
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Speaking of old ideas ... Prior to their arrival Giardina asked me to recommend some vintage shops that she and Lam could scout out while they were in town. I happily complied, and they reported that Lucky Vintage, the Fremont Antique Mall, Indian Summer, and Cairo yielded good results. The pair isn't interested in specific genres or eras—nor, of course, general vintage kitsch—but rather in discovering bygone dressmaking techniques and forgotten silhouette details that can be reworked and applied to modern sensibilities.
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Before the luncheon panel, Lam and Giardina also visited Totokaelo, Jack Straw, Baby and Co., Nordstrom, Barneys, Alexandra's Consignment, and the downtown public library. And they loved them. They sort of nearly raved about them actually, and the raw, earthy spaces and excellent use of natural materials that evoke the Northwest. "You have excellent shopping here," said Giardina, pictured left of the designer. Please remember that next time you feel like you have to sojourn to LA or New York for a new look.
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Neiman Marcus hosted about 15 frequent shoppers and a handful of media types at the luncheon/fashion show/panel discussion. As the shop's Cusp department manager quizzed the designers, they also narrated the looks from the current collection.
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Giardina and Lam say their shopper is feminine without being girly. I love the way this oversized vest feels neither ladylike nor menswear-inspired; it's a great example of how the line can put out pieces that shape a new vernacular.
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This white-on-white ensemble provides an example of Lam's belief that his customer appreciates details.
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And here's that 360 view in action.
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Lam made a really interesting remark about this current moment in history being marked by high public literacy in all things design. We devour design blogs and magazines; we're aware of influences and we appreciate the modern mix. I sensed a burden and a privilege when Lam made the statement, as if he enjoys being on his toes about all of it, but also feels the weight of needing to invent and reinvent. Lam struck me as a fairly serious character—then again, our meeting was early, and he had a big day ahead of him.
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I'm enough of a Seattleite that I found Lam's comments about our city as interesting as his comments about his collection. In the end, I realized that the two subjects fit together quite nicely.
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"I'm blown away by the sophistication," the San Francisco native told us about his impression of Seattle. "It's much more interesting than its cliches." The same can be said for fashion, and in particular, Lam and Giardina's take on American sportswear.
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