Derek Lam on 10 Crosby, Backpacks and the Colour Pink

A chat with the NYC-based designer beloved by fashion girls everywhere, whose lower-priced and much loved line is coming to Holt Renfrew this fall

Photo: Courtesy Holt Renfrew

(Photo: Courtesy Holt Renfrew)

With an eponymous label that just passed its tenth birthday, California-born, New York-based designer Derek Lam has always been ahead of the fashion pack. In 2011, just seven years after his first collection, he launched a more accessible offshoot of his brand, Derek Lam 10 Crosby. With the same minimalist and thoughtful design Lam is known for, 10 Crosby became a quick favourite of the style elite, from celebs to street stars. In honour of the news that Holt Renfrew has picked up the brand for fall, we chatted with Lam about 10 Crosby’s beginnings, Binx Walton and his penchant for more accessible fashion (and sheets).

What makes Holt Renfrew a fit for Derek Lam 10 Crosby?
It’s always lovely to partner with brands that have a similar philosophy about luxury and style. It’s about being on the pulse of what’s happening in design, but not forgetting the heritage and the culture of fashion and luxury. I love how 10 Crosby fits so well on the contemporary floor, and they showcase it so well. Holts isn’t just exclusively high end, and I think that makes it modern.

Where did the name 10 Crosby come from?
10 Crosby was the address in New York where it was founded. And because the collection was inspired by me being in that location and seeing an audience of women that I wanted to dress, I used that as the moniker.

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Mercer backpack (Photo:

You launched 10 Crosby handbags earlier this year, and people fell in love with themthe Mercer backpack is everywhere. Why a backpack?
The ease and stylishness of it. People haven’t considered a backpack in a while. The connotation is that maybe it’s too casual, too school-ish, too nerdy, but to offer it in a great leather with a new, interesting shape and clean lines makes it special again. When I travel, I use a backpack all the time, because I find that it’s just the most convenient.

How do you approach designing for Derek Lam 10 Crosby, vs. designing for Derek Lam itself?
Derek Lam 10 Crosby is about identifying what women want in their day to day life, and giving them something special in that context. With Derek Lam collection, it’s really about the exceptional. Trying to really create an exceptional product with an exceptional story behind it. Having said that, both kind of vibrate on the same wavelength in terms of style.

What appeals to you about creating more widely accessible clothing? 
I love trying to reach a new audience because I really feel that’s also a reflection of contemporary life. You can’t be in an ivory tower.

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Binx Walton walking for Derek Lam FW 2015 (Photo: Anthea Simms)

Binx Walton walked your FW runway, and we love her at FLARE. Are there any up-and-coming models you’ve worked with that you see a bright future for?
The field gets richer and richer each time because we’re seeing a moment where individualists like Binx with unconventional beauty are really aspirational. But then you have the classical beauties like Amanda Murphy, who I really love. It’s an interesting time for models. There’s a whole group of new South Asian models, East Asian models, models from Africa. The diversity is really what makes the whole environment that much more stimulating when you’re doing a show.
Michelle Monaghan just wore one of your FW pieces to the premiere of Pixels. What does it mean to you when a celebrity chooses your clothing for an event or red carpet?
It’s always incredibly flattering, because I never really chase those moments. So when I do see someone like Michelle wearing something, I am always pleasantly surprised. Especially with someone like her who looks so great in clothes. She can wear almost anything, and she still decides to wear something that is one of my favourite dresses from the season.

Do you remember the first piece you ever designed?
I won a Lord & Taylor dress design award when I was in my junior year at Parsons. I won a scholarship and an internship at a very classically American dress house which no longer exists. At the end of the internship, the owner said to me, Why don’t you design something and we’ll produce it and we’ll give you some of the proceeds. I designed this sleeveless dress that had a built-in bolero. So I was already thinking about the two-in-one which I do a lot now. And they produced it, sold it and gave me a cheque. That was in 1990.

What’s something surprising about you?
I love pink sheets, and I have the ultimate pink sheets. They’re kind of this vintage, Hawaiian pink, and they’re Thomas O’Brien for Target. They were very accessible, and the perfect pink. It’s all about the colour.

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