Wen Zhou is a unicorn. You meet her and think, “She can’t be for real. No one’s this smart, kind, successful, generous and down-to-earth.” She’s got a wicked sense of humor and can whip together a swanky dinner party for thirty like it’s NBD.
Did we forget to mention that Wen is the CEO of 3.1 Phillip Lim, a single mother of two, and a completely self-made woman? She just won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in New York. (Like we said, a unicorn.)
Though she’s based in Manhattan, Wen comes to Paris three to four times a year for Phillip’s menswear collection and for the fashion market. We caught up with her right after the runway show and before her summer holiday in Provence — then finished the chat once she was back in New York. True to form, she openly shared her thoughts on work, motherhood and the small moments that make unforgettable memories.
We are so excited to introduce you to a major #BossLady: Wen.
You often travel internationally with your kids. They’re 13 and 8 now, but weren’t the long flights and jet lag such a hassle when they were small and you were working?
I started traveling with my kids very early on — since they were little. I figured it was the best way to get them used to getting on a plane and waking up in a whole different place from NYC. While traveling with small children can be challenging, there’s nothing like having them with you. For me, they’ve been my good luck charms.
Now they’re a bit older, and you might say, seasoned travelers. They love getting on a plane, especially when they know we’ll spending time in Paris, which my daughter (Ming, 13) loves so much. My son (Zen, 8) loves the classic ham and cheese sandwiches. Eating them is the highlight of his Paris trips.
Since you come to Paris so often, do you (and your kids) have any favorite places, must-dos or eats while you’re here?
We love visiting the beautiful parks, like Jardin du Luxembourg, and walking around the city. We love hanging out at neighborhood cafés, sipping on Coca Cola (the only place I let them drink soda) and just people watching. It sounds very routine — and that’s because it is — but we love it that way. My Paris schedule can be so busy with work, that having these strolls and taking in the scenery is such a fantastic way to spend quality time together. We get to talk about anything and everything.
I’m sure you’ve heard this question before but how do you do it? How do you manage an international, multi-million dollar brand and company while staying such a present and engaged person and mother? I’ve never seen you break a sweat or lose your sense of humor.
I think motherhood can be one of the best corporate world training systems out there! I honestly have not had the luxury of time to really think too long about day-to-day things. It’s either do them or don’t do them. My reaction time is quick, I listen to my intuition, and by doing so, it frees up precious time for me to spend with my kids.
The rest, it’s just fashion.
How do you make time for yourself and how do you relax? When you’re CEO of a company you built, do you ever really get time off?
I have a good system in place, especially when it comes to time off with family. I normally take advantage of my summer work trips to Paris. After I finish my commitments there, I take as much as three weeks off in different places in Europe. This summer, we spent 10 days in Provence (we all fell in love with it!) and drove everywhere, exploring the neighboring villages and towns. It was incredible, and we added another chapter’s worth of memories together.
While in NYC, I make time to escape to the gym and see my pilates instructor, take yoga, or a spin class. I recently signed up for swim lessons. I have to check that off my list! Not knowing how to swim at this age is really embarrassing.
What’s better: a New York or a Paris summer?
A New York summer is generally quiet and very relaxing, especially in August. We are able to get into any restaurant where normally it’s impossible. We love to take short weekend trips to the beach as well as go hiking in upstate New York.
Paris is not only our gateway to the rest of Europe, but the axis point where we meet all of our friends from around the world. Wish we were there now!
Of course you have to tell us your Fall fashion must-haves.
For fall, I am dreaming of beautiful warm outerwear pieces layered over a long, lean sweater silhouette and wide-leg trousers. I can’t wait for the weather to turn!
Images courtesy of Wen Zhou