Phillip Lim on Asian-American Activism in Fashion Favorite 



Mar 20 2021


NYC Chinatown

In the wake of hate crimes against Asian-Americans, the New York designer has moved his studio to Chinatown and refocused his energies toward advocacy and fundraising on behalf of the AAPI community. As he said, ‘I can no longer separate Phillip the person from Phillip Lim the brand.'

DURING THE SUMMER of the pandemic shutdown, fashion designer Phillip Lim moved his studio from anodyne Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan to the center of bustling Chinatown. To him, it felt like the right thing to do at a time when the historic Chinese neighborhood was reeling from racism, violence and economic depression. Mr. Lim, whose Chinese family survived the Cambodian genocide and landed in Southern California when he was a child, wanted to be present in the community that he says “feels like home.” Now he walks down Baxter Street daily, checks in with shop owners and eats chicken pho at Nha Trang One and pork chops at Bo Ky. He talks traditional goldsmithing at the New Top Jewelry shop. Speaking from his home in nearby Soho, Mr. Lim said, “Creativity still comes from here. Beauty still is born from here.”

It was a natural move for a well-respected designer who has increasingly become known as an organizing force in the Asian-American community and beyond. “If you look at the last 20 posts on my Instagram, it looks like I’m an activist,” he said. “It looks like that has nothing to do with fashion anymore.”

Mr. Lim has been raising awareness about anti-Asian racism and xenophobia for over a year. He first appeared on CNN to raise the alarm in February 2020 after being shaken by the news that an elderly man in San Francisco was attacked while collecting cans. He returned to speak on the network one year later, as violence against Asian-Americans continued to rise. Then came this week’s killing of eight people including six women of Asian descent in the Atlanta area, for which the investigation is still ongoing. Mr. Lim described the news rippling through his “three different group chats of Asian excellence: the ‘Asian Avengers,’ the ‘Slaysians’ and ‘Go Fund Good Stuff’” as “a punch in the gut.” “You could feel the collective sense of loss,” he said. “And we just got back up and this means more than ever, this [activism] is more important than our day jobs.”

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