First he traveled to Brazil, but now designer Derek Lam is coming to a Kohl’s near you.Derek Lam fans will be thrilled to know that the latest collection for Kohl’s DesigNation program is being created by none other than Lam himself. The program, which involves a fashion designer traveling to a destination and creating a collection inspired by that place, debuted last November with Narciso Rodriguez’ Istanbul-inspired designs. In Lam’s case, he traveled to Rio de Janeiro, and his 35-piece capsule collection inspired by the sultry city will debut this month, with prices ranging from $40 to $88. And, no, it’s not just skimpy bikinis.
Derek Lam: I think people think of me as more cerebral, and Rio is a real place — not a movie or a book. There’s something sensual about it. Also, there’s that cliché that all the people there are beach bunnies with gorgeous bodies. So I wanted to do my take on that.
AW: I believe that cliché holds pretty true.
DL: It’s insane — they’re all about being in shape. I went in May, and it rained the whole time. So I didn’t get to go to the beach, which I think was a positive thing. I got to see other parts of the city; otherwise I’d have come back with bikinis. While it is beach oriented, Rio is a big, real city surrounded by this amazing jungle. So I tried to imagine how a woman would dress for all those places in one wardrobe. And the collection is my modern take on it — sensual, warm, sexy and very urban.
While he aspires to travel with as little as possible, there are a few things this New York–based fashion darling doesn’t leave home without.
“A Rhodia notepad, for sketching and jotting down ideas”
“Bose headphones. I prefer using my own rather than what’s provided onboard.”
“A Kindle. I like jumping from one book to another, so obviously having a few titles in one reader is ideal compared to lugging around several books at once.”
“The iPad — to read The New York Times”
“My passport and Global Entry membership”
“Cotton pull-on pants to change into on long-haul flights. They’re navy blue, and all cotton, so even if I have to make a quick off-the-plane with them on, I won’t look like a total fool.”
“An extra shirt to change into before landing”
DL: My collection is still a small audience, and it needs hand-holding to explain the collection via the show and retailers. Kohl’s is accessible, so [my collection for it] needs to speak on the rack. That’s why I used a lot of prints and tried to do interesting new ways of doing prints.
AW: What new ways?
DL: I did a lot of layering. I took a photo of graffiti that I found on the street and layered that over a landscape print or a cover of a menu with a rose print that I skewed. I was trying to take this kind of typical print but make it really modern.
AW: You obviously travel a lot. How do you dress for those long flights?
DL: I always bring my own pajama bottoms, and I wear the T-shirt I am in. That’s the only concession. Otherwise, I dress exactly the same as I dress in the city. I aspire to be that person who never has a carry-on. My dream is to have the iPad and my music and go.
AW: Are you ever shocked at some of the things you see while traveling?
DL: When I was in the airport in Korea, I noticed that every guy and girl was dressed in matching clothing. We had heard about this trend — I think we saw 15 different couples dressed exactly the same. So we asked two different people, one at duty-free and one in the lounge, “What’s up with this?” And they said it’s how they dress for honeymoons. I mean, they wore fisherman–striped sweaters, sweatshirts with teddy bears embroidered on them and matching hats — those baseball caps with bunny ears. That’s something you don’t see anywhere but when you travel. You can’t make that up.