New York-based designer Adam Lippes first rose to prominence in the luxury fashion world at Oscar de la Renta, where he served as one of the industry’s youngest creative directors. After leaving the famed fashion house in 2003, the Cornell alum launched his eponymous label, ADAM, in 2004 and landed the cover of Women’s Wear Daily in 2007, following his first official runway show at New York Fashion Week. He re-launched Adam Lippes collection for Fall 2013 collection with a focus on elegant, luxury sportswear, which debuted Feb 2013. Lippes was receiving so many requests for his very popular tees, that he decided to offer them again under Adam Lippes BASICS.
You recently relaunched Adam Lippes BASICS in October – how is it different from before?
It’s really not different from before. I was getting emails everyday from customers asking if we’re going to bring it back and when I left the brand originally, a lot of emails saying where am I going to buy my favorite t-shirts and underwear! I think when people get converted to a certain t-shirt or pair of underwear they really get addicted to it. So when I went to relaunch the big point was not to change it. I went back to the same weaver (we weave our own fabric) and factory in Peru. The only thing I did different was packaging. The goal was to keep it as it was.
What’s the secret to your BASICS – what gives it the perfect fit for men and women? Will you introduce new styles seasonally?
Before I launched the collection I spent probably a year and a half searching for the location and factory of where I want to produce it. I looked in Italy, the US, Thailand, Israel and then Peru. And then I really had to work with the factory on fit. I come from the world of Oscar de la Renta – so using those fit parameters for a t-shirt; I think was a different way of approaching a t-shirt fit. Obviously the fit for the men and women, at least for our collection, are very different – but there were many, many, many rounds of fitting. And we still tweak it from time to time if things get off or things change. We always have our eye on what it was, but keep it current as well. We’re introducing some colors in April and we’re going to start to work on additional styles for men and women.
Why did you decide to retail Adam Lippes BASICS exclusively through your website?
I thought it was one place I could launch it, control it, and not worry about wholesale. I had a list of 30,000 prior customers and others who had been emailing me for the last year and a half I saved, and I thought, I’m going to use this as a platform to launch the BASICS. It’s been incredible. It’s brought people to our website and our sales have been remarkable. We’ve already placed a second re-order. It’s been great, it was sort of a risk, but I’m happy I took it.
Do you think having the BASICS line before helped people get ready for the full fashion collection when you first launched?
I wanted to launch with a basics brand that would be the core foundation of a complete fashion collection. So I launched the t-shirts first and followed with the fashion 18 months later. And this time around when I relaunched, I launched first with the fashion and then the t-shirts came about 6 months later.
You talk a lot about versatility – how do you think this is reflected in your collection or your girl?
I think the clothes allow the woman to play and have fun. What we designed can be worn for a variety of different reasons during the day, and just how people live. I do not make costume clothes for women. It’s just not what I do. I think this allows them to experiment with their own sense of style. And when it comes to the t-shirt, Oprah once said, this is a t-shirt that can take you anywhere. And she meant she can wear it to a meeting or to yoga – anywhere and I think this speaks to the refinement and simplicity of it.
Was this hard for you coming from Oscar de la Renta and having to dial back the formality of design?
I always wore really refined t-shirts for as long as I can remember. I wanted to find one that I could make and would want to wear. It was in my DNA to make refined basics. And I really wanted to start working on fashion pretty quickly after I launched.
How big is your team now?
We are 11 total. We work out a townhouse in the West Village. We have a great group – many were here with me before with the previous brand.
Do you for see free-standing stores for Adam Lippes as you once had for your previous collection?
Definitely – we had a few before and we’ll open them again. Right now we’re looking to partner with wholesale accounts here and abroad. We’re already 50% international. For the next few years I really see focusing our energy on our retail partners. But longer term, I think free-standing needs to be an important component.
Do those retailers who carry the Collection also want your Basics?
We were asked by a lot of our retailers, but we politely declined. But for next season, for pre-fall, we offered the white crewneck tee to Net-a-Porter.
Having been one of the first to pioneer the Meatpacking district would you ever move back there?
No, for sure not. Even when I was there it changed so much. The demographic has changed and it’s more like Disney World a little bit. This is the evolution of things. I think it’s important to have a place where its attractive to shop and people feel comfortable and they want to look around at beautiful clothes. It should feel like a beautiful place where you want to be. There are still great spots in downtown New York from the West Village and Bleecker St. to Soho and the area that’s developing in Nomad. And of course Uptown is always beautiful.
How would you contrast your time spent at home in Soho vs. the Berkshires? Is one environment more inspiring to you?
I am three nights a week in the Berkshires when it’s not fashion season. It’s great if I can be there Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The rest of the time I’m here! I find them both inspiring – you never know where it’s going to hit. The Berkshires give me more time to reflect on what I’m doing, which is great.
Who do you see as your contemporaries?
I think the retailers decide this best. We’ve been sitting next to Stella McCartney, Derek Lam, and The Row.
What can you tell us about Fall 2014 for the new collection?
It’s coming! I’m in the final throws of it and from what I’m seeing right now I’m really excited about it!
Ed. note – And did it come! Lippes presented his latest collection last Saturday and the inspiration was the Grateful Dead. The interpretation was loose enough for his very sophisticated customer, but allowed for the collection to be tightly focused. Windowpane checked separates, toggle coats, ponchos, and other classic shapes done in lace/ leather, and trimmed with fringe rounded out the beautiful collection.
This interview has been edited and condensed.