Adam Lippes is as elegant and approachable as his designs, which project the best of femininity with twists borrowed from the boys. Lippes uses New York City based menswear tailors to create suiting pieces with plaid double-faced wool—polished peacoats, blazers, cigarette pants and wide leg trousers. The fabrics tell a lovely story, especially the exclusive watercolor floral prints. The blooms spring to life on silk gowns, dresses and opera coats, and are a beautiful contrast to the plaid pieces. Lippes creates these prints in partnership NYC’s Putnam & Putnam Floral Shop, where he gets his bouquets.
Lippes’ love of interior design and furniture from the 40s and 50s comes through in a wool sheath dress made from ten different yarns. From his luxurious basic tees—a favorite of Oprah herself—to his special occasion pieces and his size inclusion, Adam Lippes is the champion of the modern woman.
This past week Vanguard Seattle Editor Sarah Caples and I were invited by Nordstrom to attend a luncheon and fashion show in honor of the designer. Lippes showcased designs from his Fall 2019 and Resort 2020 collections at the restaurant Ascend, followed by a trunk show at Nordstrom Bellevue. I sat down with the designer to hear about his collections and his inspirations.
Lisa Cole: You have long been known for understanding your customer, connecting to your customers on a personal level and emphasizing size inclusion. What do you feel that women most want to find when looking for pieces to add to their wardrobe?
Adam Lippes: At least with the women I work with—everyone is different, and I know this sounds so old school—our customer wants to look appropriate. And whatever that means to her, that means to her… For a certain woman, she wants to look thin; for a certain woman, she wants to look conservative; for yet another woman, that might mean she wants to look sensual, but not sexy. She wants still—because she’s buying clothes—to be appropriate.
We don’t design huge fantasy outfits. She wants clothes that she can wear and that she feels good in. And by feeling good she feels appropriate. She thinks it suits her body type, her coloring. She wants to feel good.
Cole: You have a passion for many other things, including interior design and floral design. How do elements such as real-life florals and patterns in interiors influence your story-telling through your design work? How do you get from loving the flowers sitting on your desk to them being a part of a print of your design?”
Lippes: It is a process of constant work. It is what I think about in my head, and it is almost somewhat of a curse in that I see everything. For better or for worse, I see everything, and it is a constant process and dialogue from what I like to translate that to clothes. I am a fashion designer but I like a whole lot more than fashion. I am passionate about a whole lot more than clothing. So, how do I take that time that I spend on my passions and convert it to what I do in a day job. And so, yes I love gardens, I love florals, I love furniture. I am looking at furniture most of the day, and you would be surprised by the things that I catch on a piece of furniture that then translates to a piece of clothing.
Cole: The fabrics in the Resort 2020 Collection are enchantingly beautiful, including the blurred florals and amazing patterns, suiting pieces and dresses with pockets to name two. You are also known for beautiful feminine designs mixed with elegant masculine pieces. I understand that British painter Hannah Gluckman was an inspiration for you. How did this come about?
Lippes: I came across Hannah Gluckman’s work at an auction. I was like, “Oh, my God, I love this painting.” It was a portrait, and I knew nothing about Hannah. So I went back and I wanted to buy this painting, which I couldn’t afford, and I didn’t buy it. I thought, what is the next best thing?
So I bought a book. I skimmed through the book quickly, and I saw that she painted all these florals, these beautiful florals and I love florals. I thought, maybe we can do florals. And then I started to read about her, and that she was from a well-to-do family, but at the turn of the century, she was dressing as a man. And a lot of what she painted and a lot of the portraits I was first attracted to very much blurred on gender. Which is very much in the air.
I don’t think a fashion designer should be or can be totally devoid of what is happening out there. You don’t have to speak to it directly, but you have to be cognizant of what is happening politically. And so the whole story kind of just came together, as inspirations often do.
Cole: How would you describe your personal style? Do you have a “uniform” or a favorite way of dressing that defines your signature style?
Lippes: Yes, 100 percent. I tend to be in a navy blue tropical wool Prada pant, a very simple pant, a beautiful pair of shoes and one of our white crew neck t-shirts. It’s my normal every day. I am dressed up today!
You can shop Adam Lippes Fall 2019 and Resort 2020 at Nordstrom here. Images courtesy of Nordstrom.