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Low-down on High Style – Designer Adam Lippes’ take on dressing a woman

Adam Lippes (photo below) enjoys the gorgeous setting of Naumkeag in Stockbridge with model Kelly Kaiser, mother of four, music and art teacher, and musician from West Stockbridge. Photo above, chiffon pleated tunic and skirt with lattice trim, Adam Lippes; white gold diamond dandelion puff earrings, McTeigue & McClelland (McII), Great Barrington; Donald J. Pliner bootie, BerkChique pop-up fashion fundraiser. Below: silk chiffon tiered ruffle dress, Adam Lippes; yellow gold “Spathiphyllum” lily earrings, McII; Blondo Gallo black suede boots, Shooz, Lenox. Hair and makeup by Collette Villetto of SEVEN salon.spa, Stockbridge.

Adam Lippes does not do themed collections. For this A-list fashion designer, who splits his time between New York City and the Berkshires, inspiration comes first and foremost from his customer. That’s why Lippes, founder and creative director of his namesake lifestyle brand, works directly with clients in stores around the world, making 10 to 20 visits each season. “I like to find out who they are, what their lives are like, what they are doing, and what they like, and then I run all that information through our design filter,” he says. Traveling is a boon for Lippes, allowing his mind to be freer and more open to picking things up in a creative way than working in his studio.

As a self-described furniture fanatic (and son of an interior designer mother and antiques collector father), Lippes also takes direction from the world of architecture and interiors—vintage fabrics, wallpaper, upholstery, artwork. “But it’s the woman who really carries the collection,” he says.

Lippes discounts designers who rattle off a one-sentence description of that woman, explaining that’s not possible when you know “her” the way he does. His clients cross all ages—he has worked with 18 to 88 year olds—and their body types range from size 0 to 22. What’s more, his prototype is someone who embraces a sense of discovery and doesn’t want to wear her labels on her sleeve. She also knows and loves quality, and not the flashy type. All of his pieces are lined in silk, something he says even the best French designers no longer do. “We provide quality in an intimate way just for the customer, and she appreciates that,” Lippes says.

Lippes earned his stripes at POLO Ralph Lauren and Oscar de la Renta, where he became one of the youngest creative directors of a luxury fashion house in the industry—something he chalks up to a blend of good luck and hard work. “When I joined Oscar, it was as the assistant of an assistant, and not even in the design department,” he says. “I took a lot of risks and just went for it without even realizing I was going for it. I am incredibly fortunate for the past I have had.”

Five years in, Lippes’s label derives about 60 percent of its business from in-store purchases and 40 percent from online shops such as Net-a-Porter and Shopbop. His goal, however, is for 50 percent of total sales to come from his own online store, and so far the company’s investments have paid off: Sales through that portal are now about 15 percent, up from 10 percent this time last year.

Boosting that business is his predilection for social media, which he sees as a creative tool for conveying a feeling and continuing the brand’s narrative rather than as a sales or promotional tool. He is a prolific Instagram poster, weaving photos of his collection with his “obsessions,” such as a Qing Dynasty porcelain basin, the Grand Canal at the Château de Courances in France, and an idyllic view (complete with tree-hung hammock) of his own Monterey property. “Instagram has its pluses and minuses, but I take a lot of inspiration from what I see there,” he says. It’s also yet another way for him to connect with his clients, who are chummy in their comments.

Accolades and achievements also help. The fall 2019 collection, intimately presented in his own (albeit grand) apartment, has garnered kudos for its old-school-with-a-twist brio. The fashion bible WWD heaped praise on Lippes’s designs as offering “modernity with panache.” He sees the line as delivering on all the touch points of his brand—ease, unhurried elegance, understated design, and confident luxury—through its attention to cut, fit, color, and details.

The collection also continues to reference the influential style of Studio Peregalli, the Milan-based decorating firm run by the husband-and-wife team of Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini. “They are bringing back a very old-school way of decorating that very much speaks to my approach to fashion design,” Lippes says.

He drew the print, patterns, and color story from a recent visit to Peregalli and Rimini’s vacation home in Tangier, with textiles taking the lead in Lippes’s idiosyncratic manner. The playful juxtapositions in tone and texture keep traditional motifs (paisley and loden among them) feeling entirely fresh, not at all fussy. He conjures lightness and levity from a rich tapestry of fabrics. There’s merino wool and hand-knit marled Scottish wool, quilted silk and jacquard, double-face satin and crepe, zibeline cashmere, feather-weight taffeta, embroidered organza, and sequined chiffon. The palette spans a broad spectrum—bright yellow and red, palest lavender and lime, earthy rust and olive, and deep navy and ice blue are some of the curated colorways.

Lippes is selective about his sources and alliances. He worked with the venerable Loro Piana (Italian purveyor of luxury wool and cashmere) in creating two different herringbone pieces, a rough-textured outerwear coat and an ultra-fine shirt-and-pants ensemble. The embroidery work (based on Peregalli upholstery) and some knitwear (including a plaid pantsuit) were made in Madagascar with a woman who teaches the craft and uses the proceeds to support her orphanage. “I have great admiration for both the fineness and purpose of their work, and we intend to partner with her going forward on larger projects in her country,” Lippes says.

Such attention to detail and devotion to quality come at a price, and Lippes recognizes that his is a luxury product for a luxury clientele, but not necessarily for the “dressed-up evening cocktail New York City realm.” With clothing that runs the gamut from crisp cotton shirts to hand-knit cashmeres and ethereal evening dresses, there’s something for anyone, whether they’re in the country or city. (He numbers several clients and a key investor among Berkshire residents.) There are also his signature T-shirts, which he has been designing since he launched (and subsequently sold) his first brand some 12 years ago. “It is simply the perfect T-shirt, made from beautiful pima cotton and hand-sewn in Peru. It can go anywhere,” he notes.

His recommendation is to strive for quality over quantity—luxury apparel lasts a lifetime. “If you just buy fast fashion, you are cheating yourself and the design world,” says Lippes, adding that these cheaply made, throw-away clothes are bad for the environment. Instead, Lippes advocates spending time in fitting rooms trying on different items to gain an understanding of construction and quality and what is right for your body. Then you can take that information and invest in a few quality pieces—or even just one piece a year. “They need not be brand new,” says Lippes. “You can find an Yves St. Laurent blazer for $150, often with the tags still on it, from a great vintage store.”

His ideal starter wardrobe consists of a well-fitting suit, one or two great blouses, a perfect pair of jeans, and two pairs of shoes. Once you’ve got these foundational pieces, the thinking goes, you can have all sorts of fun around them. One other bit of advice: “I really believe in making an effort,” says Lippes. “If I wear a blazer with a nice pair of shoes in the airport, people just treat me better.”

Providing respite from his frequent travels and the busy-ness of New York is his time in the Berkshires. Although Lippes and his partner Alexander Farnsworth purchased an apartment in an 1850s mansion in Brooklyn Heights this past January—it is featured in the June issue of Architectural Digest—he considers the Berkshires his true home. “I’ve been here since before there was traffic,” says Lippes, who bought his property in Monterey 14 years ago. How that came to pass was apparently a bit of a fait accompli. While in the midst of buying a farm in upstate New York, a friend took him to the Berkshires and introduced him over dinner to Tim Lovett, who suggested that Lippes look here instead. (“No way, too far.”) After some convincing, Lippes agreed with two stipulations: no tudors and no road noise. Turns out the first house Lovett showed him was a tudor with road noise and Lippes bought it that same afternoon. “So you just never know,” he says.

“I try not to have a social life up here because I want to keep it more of an escape,” he says. Lippes often hosts friends from the city or entertains other second-home-owner industry expats, including the design duo behind Proenza Schouler and the fashion director of Vogue.

Lippes also has designated the Berkshires a work-free zone, and he makes an effort to put down his devices (aside from the occasional Instagram post). Instead he spends a lot of time outside and in the gardens where he can think and dream. That no-work policy will undergo a change with the pending launch of Highminded, the couple’s cannabis store in downtown Great Barrington. (Farnsworth is the CEO.) They’ve begun the build-out and are expecting to open by year’s end. “We are investing a lot of time and money in creating a high-design space that’s unlike any other in the Berkshires,” says Lippes. “It is going to be a place for incredible discovery.” It will also have a selection of his own apparel, no doubt designed with the customer in mind.

More information about Adam Lippes’s brand, along with his past and current collections, is available online at adamlippes.com. The designs that are shown here will be available for purchase through his online store this fall.




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