Derek Lam 10C x Athleta Is Here: Meet Derek

Derek Lam and Athleta President Nancy Green

Derek Lam with Athleta President Nancy Green at Gap Inc.’s San Francisco HQ to unveil Derek Lam 10C x Athleta (Photographed by Sally Colwell, Gap Inc. Global Communications)

The creative force behind eponymous lines Derek Lam NYC and Derek Lam 10 Crosby, San Francisco native Derek Lam sat down with us on a recent trip back home to chat about the vision behind the Derek Lam 10C x Athleta collaboration (which hits Athleta stores and Athleta.com September 9!) and what really excites him when it comes to being a designer.

On reinterpreting modern American sportswear 

“My heritage is in American sportswear design, which comes from the idea of incorporating outdoor leisure activities with day-to-day clothing. Think horseback riding, polo, tennis. What’s great about this collaboration is that we’re completely rethinking sportswear for the modern woman. Leading an active life is becoming more and more important in our daily lives, and fitness is very much a part of Derek Lam 10C x Athleta. For me, the greatest compliment is when something I design can walk off the runway and right into her life, whether that’s the office or the gym.”

For me, the greatest compliment is when something I design can walk off the runway and right into her life.

From the Fall 2015 Derek Lam 10C x Athleta design collaboration

Mesh Lane Tank, Block Studio Legging, Downtown Leather Short, 515 New Balance Downtown Sneaker

On working with Athleta 

“I have always had a great respect for specialists and love to see that movement making a comeback – from microbreweries to farm-to-table restaurants. Americans used to be considered generalists; the broader you could touch the world, the better. Now things are a little closer to home. Athleta’s expertise in performance fabrics, fibers and construction has offered us a really exciting opportunity to create a collection that perfectly complements what we do at 10 Crosby.”

I have always had a great respect for specialists and love to see that movement making a comeback.

Derek Lam and the Athleta design team

Derek with the Athleta design team at Athleta HQ in Petaluma, CA

On the athleisure trend

“As a designer, my number-one muse is trying to understand how women live. To investigate it, unearth it and represent it in my work with my own point of view. I live in Gramercy Park in New York City. I never expected this, but it’s the apex of every new thing happening in urban sports. There are so many studios and gyms! On my walk to and from the office, I am still blown away by all these men and women in athletic leisure clothing. This new lifestyle is coming to the fore, and I don’t think it’s a temporary trend. This is a real moment in fashion lifestyle history, and I want to be a part of that. It excites me.”

This is a real moment in fashion lifestyle history, and I want to be a part of that. It excites me.

From the Fall 2015 Derek Lam 10C x Athleta designer collaboration

Block Avenue Seamless Top, Block Studio Capri, 515 New Balance Downtown Sneaker

On his favorite piece from Derek Lam 10C x Athleta

“That’s the hardest question for a designer! But I think the leather jacket for Fall 2015 is a huge accomplishment. It’s a technical jacket that is still polished. The mesh lining breathes. The leather stops at the elbow for ease of movement, and the performance stretch fleece sleeves are amazing. Plus I really love the look of layering short sleeves over long. For Derek Lam 10C x Athleta, we managed to fuse expertise from our two brands to create something new and unique.”

Leather jacket and leather shorts from the Fall 2015 Derek Lam 10C x Athleta designer collaboration

Downtown Leather Jacket, Downtown Leather Short, 515 New Balance Downtown Sneaker

On his creative process

“I believe that objects vibrate with intention. Is that too new-agey? For my work, you can’t fake intention. I love thinking about the details. But first we always start with the big picture – the silhouette, the trend, the look – and then each garment has to have something special so she’ll take that second look. I’ll tell Liz (10 Crosby VP of Design Elizabeth Giardina) to pick a contemporary sport, and let’s start with that. She does a lot of mood boards and inspiration-gathering around what is happening in the ready-to-wear world, like two-in-ones and layering. Once she’s created the sketches, then I ask ‘how do we put it all together?’ To me, it’s key that the pieces are able to stand alone, but can be presented as layered ensembles. There’s constantly dialog.”

It’s key that the pieces are able to stand alone, but can be presented as layered ensembles.

From the Fall 2015 Derek Lam 10C x Athleta designer collaboration

Derek Lam 10C x Athleta Fall 2015 Collection (Photographed by Sally Colwell, Gap Inc. Global Communications)

On the future of fashion

“Someone once asked Geoffrey Beene about the future of fashion. He didn’t talk about the color of the day or length of hemlines. He said it will come from technology or the laboratory. What we are doing with Athleta is exactly that. New fibers, new technology, a new way of building and constructing clothes. We have to take advantage of technology and where it can take us. I’m always trying to strike a balance between being a steward of traditional fashion design and a driver of innovation. It excites me when someone takes something I’m familiar with and gives it a new spin to make me love it again.”

I’m always trying to strike a balance between being a steward of traditional fashion design and a driver of innovation.

Want to learn more about Derek Lam 10C x Athleta? Be sure to read our interview with 10 Crosby VP of Design Liz Giardina for even more behind-the-scenes goodness! And of course, you can shop the complete fall line at Athleta.com/DL10C or at an Athleta store near you.

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