The Evolution of Adam Lippes
Meet the fashion designer who puts cats and Sean Combs to shame.
By Renata Certo-Ware
Even though he’s only 45, Adam Lippes has already lived several lives in the fashion industry. He’s been in the biz long enough to undergo several metamorphoses as a brand and a businessman, from getting his start at Polo Ralph Lauren and Oscar de la Renta to starting his own line, being featured on Oprah, taking on investors, buying them out, and then starting over again. With each transition came a name change, so he’s basically the Puff Daddy (or is it P. Diddy? Diddy?) of fashion - onwards and upwards, with a new moniker each time.
He has gone, intentionally, from designing t-shirts under the name ADAM + EVE to a contemporary line, ADAM, to the present-day iteration of his line, Adam Lippes, which is centered on high-end pret-a-porter. As if that’s not enough, he dabbles in other ventures, as well, including marijuana - more on that in a bit.
(Fangirl moment - ADAM was my very first fashion show in 2011. He signed the invite at our recent interview, almost a decade later!)
Shockingly handsome and perfectly coiffed in person, even more so than photos from his Instagram suggest, Lippes cut a striking figure in tailored slacks, a fitted black shirt, polished shoes (no socks) and stately black glasses at our interview at Nordstrom in King of Prussia while he was in town for a trunk show. It’s no surprise, then, that his biggest pet peeve is lazy dressing.
It makes perfect sense too that Adam Lippes, the line, is equally as polished. The line, especially this current Fall-Winter 2018 collection, is above all else very ladylike - First Lady-like, even. Think: Understated Classics with a High-End twist.
A silhouette that from a distance looks like a plain white tee is actually covered in shiny white paillettes and has an open back.
A peek of plaid winks from the inside lining of a navy blue high-low dress, where a lesser designer, or a lesser priced item would have just left it unlined.
And, does this print, used here on a silk shirt from the FW18 collection, remind anyone of wisps of smoke languidly dancing forth from the tip of a neatly rolled joint fired up somewhere in the Berkshires, or is that just me?
It is incredibly refreshing and relieving to know that even when someone is achieving success, they can still shift and evolve and frankly, be dissatisfied.
There’s a lot of pressure for creatives, or really anyone that is career-oriented, to get “There,” as though success is a plateau, a level you reach at the end of a video game but, in the words of Gertrude Stein, “There is no there there.” Sometimes when you hit certain milestones that should be a sure sign of success - taking on investors, being carried in hundreds of stores worldwide - you look around and say “wait, this is not what I want, I want to go back and try another door,” which is, essentially, what Lippes did.
To me, that’s a side effect of being in the business - any business - for so long: You are there long enough to see it evolve and to start over again and again in some cases, a point I made during the interview.
“You don’t know where you’ll end up,” Lippes mused.
Among one of the places that were perhaps unforeseen when Lippes set out as a newcomer at Polo Ralph Lauren is his forthcoming cannabis shop, Highminded, which he is opening in a renovated church in the Berkshires with his partner Alexander Farnsworth, a Creative Content Director and writer, in early 2019. The shop has a barebones website right now, but, given the nature of the industry, it’s probably something more meant to be experienced with all your senses rather than online. Aside from pot, including a proprietary “designer” (if you will) strand that Lippes and Farnsworth are working to cultivate, the shop will also be slinging “cool accessories from all over the world, everything from Japanese matches to antique sterling silver ashtrays” as well as clothing from his own line - much better than the ubiquitous phallic glass bongs and tie-dye t-shirts sold at most dispensaries, IMHO…
Lippes insists that shelf space will be the only thing the two businesses have in common, though. (Seriously. He is quite insistent about that.) Read on for more in Lippes’ own words on his next business venture, plus his thoughts on why he wasn’t happy with ADAM, dressing lazy, and what he thinks of fashion week.
Adam Lippes in conversation with Renata Certo-Ware of Untouchable:
Renata Certo-Ware: How did the transition from ADAM + EVE to ADAM to now Adam Lippes evolve?
Adam Lippes: We originally started as a t-shirt brand when I was still with Oscar de la Renta. I was on Oprah for the t-shirts, and the business grew very quickly and investors came in - Richemont, the brand that owns Cartier and Chloé. The decision was made to launch a contemporary line under ADAM, and we grew the business to about 500 stores, we had five of our own stores. And then, I sold my shares and they sold their shares. Frankly I was making clothes I wasn’t that proud of.
RCW: What werent you proud of?
AL: I didn’t set out to be in the contemporary world, I didn’t want to work with synthetics and produce overseas and places that weren’t—I wanted to make beautiful clothes that a woman can have in her wardrobe and keep for a long time, so I decided to quit. It was a very hard decision to quit my own brand — well, they owned it — and I spent the next year and half working to buy it back. I bought it back and launched designer, which is what we have now.
RCW: What is your favorite store in the whole world (besides Nordstrom obvi)
AL: I love my friend’s store The Webster, there are two locations. Kirna Zabete — the owner, Beth, has a house here in Bryn Mawr. Besides the bigger stores, a lot of small specialty stores that are doing a great job. Forty Five Ten in Dallas — I’ll be there in a couple weeks!
RCW: So you’re transitioning into the cannibis business, too.
AL: I’m opening a store under a different business, nothing to do with this. I have a house in the Berkshire in Massachusetts, so I’m opening a retail shop there.
RCW: How is that going to interact with fashion in your personal life?
AL: It’s not.
RCW: Wha about in your head, as a business owner?
AL: It’s not. It’s not. It’s not.
RCW: You’re going to be two different people.
AL: It’s two different business. I’m involved in some other businesses as well so it’s more of an investment than an active day-to-day thing.
RCW: So how did you decide it was going to be the next move?
AL: It’s a big, fast-growing industry, and I have a house up there and it just became legal, so it seemed like a smart business thing to do.
RCW: What’s your style pet peeve?
AL: Laziness. In America at least, women have this concept that in order to be comfortable they have to look sloppy, not make an effort. That’s something generational now, I find that you can be comfortable and you don’t have to be constricted - I get it, heels and this and that - but you can be comfortable and dressed up and refined at the same time.
RCW: I have a lot of European friends that are so shocked by how we dress in the airport - we’re basically in pajamas. It’s weird because it seems like a lot of people are spending so much time on their faces and makeup - like, two hours to get the perfect contouring - and then they’re going out in sweatpants. It’s so odd.
AL: Really sloppy.
RCW: How have you seen Fashion Week change throughout the years?
I think it’s become less important in a big way. Now, there’s a dichotomy between either an immersive show, an event, and people who are just doing a show and you’re not so sure who it’s for. It used to be you did a show so the buyers could see it and important clients and the press, for the long-lead magazine. That’s all changed, because it’s now all online immediately - so the importance of showing on a runway show has died.
RCW: Do you think the instagram see-now, buy-now model is important or effective?
AL: There’s a reason why we show a collection and then it’s in stores six months later - it takes time to make. So a see-now, buy-now model means you have to have all the stock up front and show it, and so there’s still a reason to spend time on a collection before it’s all just produced and shown there.
RCW: You don’t get that feedback of what people are loving and what you should produce more of.
AL: There are people who can do a see-now, buy-now - if your show is more of a promotion and start showing the collection privately at first, which some people are doing and then spending more money, showing it more publicly when the collection is in store, that’s a smart way to do it.
RCW: If you could live in any era, any decade, what would it be?
AL: I think people who lived well in any era, it was good. But I’m pretty happy now.
Follow @AdamLippes on Instagram for a steady stream of snaps from his country home, trips to France, star-studded parties and beautifully styled lookbook stills in more or less equal measure.