Derek Lam is the recipient of the 2019 National Design Award for Fashion Design. His work is known for its calculated simplicity and thoughtful detailing that creates a sophisticated modern sensibility. A San Francisco native, Lam began his fashion career in 1990. He spent eight years as a designer at Michael Kors before launching his New York-based eponymous fashion house with partner Jan-Hendrik Schlottmann in 2004 and contemporary line Derek Lam 10 Crosby in 2011. The collections include women’s clothing, shoes, handbags and eyewear. Lam has received numerous accolades from CFDA, and his work has been exhibited at the Kennedy Center, The Museum at FIT and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The National Design Award recipients will be honored at a gala dinner and ceremony Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden at Cooper Hewitt.

What three adjectives define “good design” to you?

Just one, thoughtfulness.

Who is a designer, historic or working today, that you would invite to a dinner party?

Coco Chanel.

Alexis Sundman, a pretty model with a light brown complexion with her hair tied back, tilts her head and toys with an earring. She looks casual but cool in her brown wool coat and purple blouse.

Alexis Sundman wearing Derek Lam 10 Crosby, Look 4, Fall/Winter 2019 (New York, New York, Fall/Winter 2019). Photo: Matthew Sprout

How do you relax on your day off?

I cook.

What inspires you when you’re feeling stuck?

Museum trawl.

What do Cooper Hewitt and the National Design Awards mean to you?

Design excellence.

How did you get your start in design?

Using my imagination.

A fair-skinned model in enormous black-and-white pleated pants layered under a black dress with a slit leg stands with her arms akimbo, looking confident and bold

How has mentorship influenced your career?

So many, so dear. So important.

Looking over your body of work, is there one design project that holds personal significance for you?

Today’s work.

How do you think design will change in the next 20 years?

Unencumbered.

What are your words of advice to the next generation of designers?

Think harder.

About the National Design Awards

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Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Awards is the only annual program of its kind, bringing national recognition to the ways in which design enriches everyday life. Launched at the White House in 2000 as a project of the White House Millennium Council, the National Design Awards were established to promote design as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world. Twenty years later, the National Design Awards continue to honor and support excellence, innovation, and lasting achievement in American design. Cooper Hewitt continues to broaden access nationwide to the vision and work of the country’s design leaders through National Design Week and NDA Cities, inspiring people of all ages to engage with design and design thinking.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the National Design Awards, Target will offer free admission to all visitors of Cooper Hewitt during National Design Week, Oct. 12–19, to make design accessible to all. Target will also sponsor a series of Cooper Hewitt programming broadening access to the vision and work of the country’s design leaders and inspiring people of all ages to engage with design and design thinking.

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