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Phillia Downs, President and Founder

Phillia Kim Downs:
Fashionista, Designer & Entrepreneur Extraordinairre

Fashion Designer Phillia Kim Downs, 30, Founder and President of pH by phillia, Inc. had an unlikely start in her industry as she originally pursued her studies in Molecular Cell Biology, Genetics and Optometry. No matter how hard she tried to gear herself into the world of science – art and fashion kept pulling her back, or more appropriately, pushed her forward. She spends her day working with clients to design cute and sexy wardrobes, picking and falling in love with fabrics and developing hot new fashion forward ideas. Envious? Phillia shares with us that as much as she loves and can’t get enough of what she does, designing is only 3% of her responsibilities. She is after all a businesswoman and entrepreneur and there are many more concerns than just her design collection she has to worry about. Learn more about her collection, her drive to give back to the non-profit community and what’s in store for her as we feature her in this week’s Young & Professional profile.


pH by phillia, Inc.
pH new york and pH by phillia collections


pH new york: 2004
pH by phillia collections: 2006



Name, Title

Phillia Kim Downs
Founder and President




Blue Bell, Pennsylvania

Current residence

Stone Ridge, New York


University of Maryland, College Park, BS in Cell Molecular Biology and Genetics. Also a crash course degree in everything related about the high-end fashion industry (ongoing)

Work Experience

President of pH by phillia
(full time since march 2006, part time since july 2004)

Personal Aide/Nanny
For a mother dying of cancer and her family
2004-2006: One of my most important compassionate experiences ever!

Information Management Systems
Biomedical data specialist
2002-2004: Good thing I got fired to start pH! too much internet use ha!

Cancer Researcher/Biologist
1999-2002: Loved this until my boss moved back to Holland

The Spectrum Center
Auditory Integration Therapist for Autistic/ADD children
1997-1999: Such an interesting experience!



About the company

pH by phillia started out as a DIY one-of-a-kind vintage redesigned clothing, bags and accessories line which is now called pH new york. Designed and handmade by myself and best friend sidekick Nanako Mori, thie line was mainly for fun and to practice designing and sewing. Next came a relocation to New York and my first original Fall ’06 and Spring ’07 women’s collections.

I also organize and support fashion/music benefit events for a variety of non-profit organizations such as Saigon’s Children, the Leukemia Society, LiNK – Liberty in North Korea, Girls for Gender Equity, Crohn’s Disease, Breast Cancer Society and more. 100% of our ticket sales and proceeds from silent auctions goes to our chosen charity of the evening.

The company has also evolved into providing design, stylist and consulting services to a wide range of commercial and personal clients. I am eagerly awaiting my next chance to present another collection with my sidekick Nanako.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

I’m a pretty busy woman! Working hard, eating yummy food, hanging out with my cutie best friend husband, family and friends, being physically, mentally and spiritually active, dreaming big, creativity and having fun!

Ok, really I deal with responsibilities such as:

  • Corresponding with clients that range from designing really cute, sexy, cool uniforms for restaurants/bars/lounges/clubs, wedding dresses and personal wardrobes
  • Working in the garment district of NYC for my clients such as choosing fabrics/trims (buttons, zippers etc), specing their garments (taking all the measurements necessary to bring a sketch to life), meeting with pattern/sample makers, arranging production runs for them…lots of different things!
  • Consulting others to develop their own clothing line
  • Working to get my own collections into boutiques and magazines
  • Developing new ideas for future collections, business projects and benefit events for non-profit organizations
  • Re-designing more vintage clothing and accessories for pH New York
  • Most notable milestones

    1st: I was miserable at my job as a Data Specialist – it was extremely uninteresting and unsatisfying in so many ways. I was in a period of soul-searching and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was on such a straight path to medical school since high school, that when I decided I did not want to go — I was completely lost! I knew I wanted to quit but I had no idea when or how.

    Then the forces of the universe came into play and I got fired for using the internet to check my email! Amazing! That weekend I took a sewing class and got hooked instantly. I also looked in the newspaper for a parttime job and found an ad for a personal aide/nanny to help a family in need out. It was one of the most important turning points in my life. I discovered my true passion for fashion and revived my love for helping those in need.

    2nd: Launching pH new york’s website in 2005. It was my first e-commerce website. Selling my products to customers other than my friends and family. Articles in local magazines and our first national publication, Venuszine.

    3rd. Launching my pH by phillia collections in 2006. Celebrating the Spring ’07 collection with my first fashion benefit event I organized for non-profit organization LiNK – Liberty in North Korea. More press in the Washington Post Style Section, Bust Magazine and MTV Korea.

    4th: Being able to use my collection as a portfolio for actual paying freelance design gigs! woo hoo!

    What’s the niche?

    I feel that pH’s designs are very unique, unlike anything else out there on the market. Our designs are for those that have a love of individual style. These first collections represent a segment of the wide spectrum of my personal styles. I love so many different kinds of fashion. With my first collection, I feel like it was an introduction to the fun side of my personality.

    My design philosophy is a zen-like harmonious blend of retro, Asian, historical and futuristic influences, as well as being very wearable, funky-sexy-cutie -beautiful and fun! The clothing is full of beautiful color, vivacity and life! I really am obsessed with color – it makes me really happy to see gorgeously bold balanced colors as in my Spring ’07 collection.

    I can’t wait to put out future collections — it’s going to be pretty different than the first collections and is a revelation of yet another facet of my mutil-dimensional self and much more detailed. Whatever I wear each day is a reflection of what I’m going through inside my soul and its constantly changing, yet there is a common thread that is weaved throughout each look which makes my style contradictorily consistent in that it has my pH touch.

    I also feel that our pH new york line is very special because we combine different vintage pieces from different eras, including some extraordinarily rare historical pieces such as WWII badges and samurai gear. To think about the concept of all these interesting pieces from different periods of time, history and art coming together to form a brand new piece of fashion art is pretty cool I think.

    I believe that the most unique aspect of pH by phillia is our passion for humanitarism. I wanted to be a doctor so I could help people in need. It feels very natural to me to be helpful. Through pH – I found a way to combine my passions for fashion, art and humanity which I am very proud of. I only hope that pH can continue to grow and help those in need, one step at a time. I dream of the possibility to really make an impact on global issues in humanity through pH – financially, by creating awareness through creative events such as fashion/music shows, and by creating more freetime for myself to be dedicated to serve those in need.

    What’s the biggest challenge?

    1. Money! Finances! (spending so much money with very little return can be a scary thing! This industry, like many other creative industries, can be very expensive to make your mark.)
    2. Sales (its very hard for a new designer to break into the high-fashion game – boutiques already have their racks filled with previous designers that they support – sometimes in order to get a space on a rack means bumping another designer out)
    3. Press (no money for press means I need to do everything myself – and sometimes its difficult to constantly promote yourself in an effective manner)
    4. Getting more help – my husband has been so incredibly supportive. He designed my website and helps me out with all the aspects of the process along the way when he can. It takes up so much of my time that I sacrifice my social life many times. But I love what I do so I have no complaints, and I have found a way to balance my social life.

    What’s in store for the future?

    Short term future? Well, right now I am concentrating on building extra revenue through freelance design work. Its a lot of fun to design for clients because its challenges me to create something that I normally do not, plus its nice to get paid too. It’s been awhile! haha.

    I want to create a new collection, but I do not have the money to for a little while. But that’s ok. I’m just going with the flow of life. I will continue to practice designing and becoming a better designer. I am just in the very beginning stages of hopefully what is my lifelong career — I want to grow slowly and make it managable.

    When I first started out I wanted instant gratification – instant success, instant sales, etc. But what I realized is that everything really takes time, and I gotta pay my dues like the rest of the industry. I am so humbled by my experiences in fashion that I’m just proud and happy to be a part of it, in my small unique way. It’s a good thing I have a very patient, yet ambitious personality.

    I also really want to focus back on my pH new york line. I’ve been so busy with the collections that I kind of ignored this line all year. Its time to get reconnected. I have so much stock of amazing vintage pieces that I am just itching to get back working on. This will help me become a better designer and sewer I think. I feel that I connect more with those pieces for my market – and it would be cool to be able to grow together so that when I am ready to put out another higher-end collection, that my market will be right there waiting for it. That would be really cool and ideal.

    I have some other business ideas I’m working on using my new knowledge in the fashion industry and in other genres. i really need to come up with some funds to put out a future collection, so I’ll be saving for that. We’ll see how it goes. Being able to organize some more fashion/music benefit events would also be really cool and fun!

    Who would you like to be contacted by?

    1. Angelina Jolie – she’s on of my biggest heroes using her voice in humanitarian issues. She inspires me so much!
    2. Gwen Stefani – she really inspires me as a musician, artist and a designer. Her sense of personal style blows me away – I would love to dress her one day!
    3. Oprah Winfrey – I really admire what she does and there are a few quotes of hers that came in a point of my life where it really spoke to me. I still hold it dear to my heart today. In a newsweek article October 2005: “How do I accelerate my humanity? How do I use who I am on earth for a purpose that’s bigger than myself? How do I align the energy of my soul with my personality and use my personality to serve my soul? My answer always comes back to self. There is no moving up and out into the world unless you are fully acquainted with who you are. You cannot move freely, speak freely, act freely, be free unless you are comfortable with yourself.”
    4. Any organizations that have a beautiful cause that need our love and compassion – I love learning about everything and anything out there in the world. Especially the situations/crisis going on in the world – no matter how big or small.
    5. Ok this may be superficial but any celebrities with style I admire that I would love to dress (I am a fashion designer lol)!!! (Rachel Bilson, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Hillary Duff, Christina Aguilera, Scarlett Johansson, Kirsten Dunst, many many more)
    5. Anyone in or interested in the fashion industry – boutiques/buyers, editorial press, people who want to be consulted to develop their own line, make-up artists, hairstylists, photo stylists, photographers, models, industry reps, etc!
    6. Any restaurants/bars/lounges/clubs that want to take their image to the next level of branding with custom designed uniforms that completely reflect their image
    7. Anyone who wants to collaborate with me on new creative or business projects!
    8. Investors!

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    Best way to keep a competitive edge

    1. Be nice to everyone and always take the opportunity to learn when it presents itself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. People are willing to help you out if you just ask respectfully and kindly.
    2. Keep a fresh perspective on life – art, music, other forms of design: this trickles down to design, the business and the industry.
    3. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries creatively, but make sure that it will work business wise.
    4. Constantly do your research and network like crazy!
    5. Don’t give up when things are hard. No one said this would be easy! But I am doing what I love and I am very grateful for that. I think it shows in my interactions with people, places and things.
    6. Analyze your situations, how you got there and what can you do to keep improving

    Guiding principle in life

    1. I try my best to keep my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual planes in balance and harmony. I function optimally when everything is in sync. If its unbalanced, then I take the time to nurture and care for myself in that weaker area. This leads to a peaceful heart which prepares me to be able to handle calmly those bumps along the way in life.
    2. Be open-minded and non-judgemental to all walks of life and experiences.
    3. Love fully, unconditionally, and compassionately!!!
    4. Anything that I have ever dreamed to do in this lifetime – I sure will try my best to accomplish it all. It’s like I have a big checklist of to-do’s in life and it feels really good when you can check something off the list.
    5. Be honest and sincere.
    6. Be grateful for anything that makes you happy in your life: your friends and family, for being alive, for what you have , for who you are, what you do, the opportunities in your life, etc.
    7. Be thankful for the hardships and challenges in your life because they make you a stronger and wiser person if you listen to the lessons they are trying to teach you.

    Yardstick of success

    Launching our pH new york e-commerce website in 2005. Our first paying customers relaying messages back of joy and happiness of our products. Press in various editorials. Launching our collections e-commerce website in 2006. Raising money at our first fashion benefit for LiNK in September 2006 during NY Olympus Fashion Week. Getting freelance design work for paying clients. Hehe – a very short and sweet list.

    Goal yet to be achieved

    Haha! So many!

    1. Get out of debt!!! (that’s a good first step right?)
    2. Have pH by phillia carried in a relatively high number of boutiques and stores. Get some serious sales!
    3. Dress for red-carpet events — I truly want to create special one-of-a-kind dresses that will hopefully lead to more exposure.
    3. Eventually open my own pH boutique in NY and SF first. Then all over the world.
    4. Once pH is becoming more well known, then I will hopefully be able to throw bigger fashion benefit events that can raise some serious money for many good causes and create strong awareness to influential people. But for now — we’ll start small. Baby steps!
    5. To establish an internationally respected brand in the industry that encompasses many genres of fashion: men’s, women’s, children’s, shoes, bags, jewelry, bridal, housewares, furniture, etc. (I accept the fact that this may take my entire lifetime, but I am prepared to climb that epic mountain to get there).

    Best practical advice

    Remember to take the time to work on your mental, physical and spirtual health because that leads to a certain kind of peacefulness. I truly believe that they are directly correlated with the levels of your happiness and success in life.

    Take the time to have fun and laugh in life too!

    Live in the moment and try not to worry about the past and future because the past is gone and the future may never come.

    Oooh this is one of my most favorite quotes: “Do not go where the path may lead, instead go where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Emerson.

    Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture

    My family and friends have been nothing but super supportive since the very beginning with loving words of encouragement and praise. I couldn’t do this without them. They stick by me even through all my hardships and disappointments. They give me encouraging advice and help me plan my next move. I try my best to never think of my disappointments as failures if I can take with me any good lessons from them. I feel very blessed to have such a strong network for support because this industry is tough!

    A special shout-out to my husband and best friend Jordan, my sidekick Nanako, my moms, dads, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, extended family of friends!


    My husband keeps me incredibly grounded. Without him my eternally optimistic head would be floating in the clouds, daydreaming away. He inspires me in so many ways. I never thought about doing something creative in my life until I met him and his family — they always pursued their dreams, even if it was in one of the most difficult industries to break into. My husband is trying to break into the music industry — so he understands deeply what I am going through. We make such a great team.

    My family has taught me a lot about love and compassion. My grandfather was a minister, my father does non-profit work through his own organization, my mother is a hard-working social worker and helps just about anyone that needs help. They really opened my eyes from a very young age about the joy of humanity – to be able to help those in need is really a beautiful feeling. They always encouraged me to do a lot of volunteer work when I was younger, and I think this has influenced me to be as passionate about helping people through love and compassion today.

    What motivated you to get started?

    My husband and I lived with his parents for a year while saving money for our own place. My interest was peaked whenever I saw her sewing on her vintage sewing machine (I love anything vintage also by the way). My wedding was coming up and I couldn’t find a dress that I loved. My personal thought was that our wedding was so laidback, and I would only be wearing this dress for few hours, so I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So I designed my wedding dress and for $50 — my mother-in-law and I made the dress together. It was beautiful and perfect for what I wanted.

    I don’t remember this, but my mother-in-law asked me one day, “what is your dreams career?” She said I sheepishly replied, “fashion design.” Its funny I can’t remember that.

    But I can still remember hanging out with Nanako at our favorite bar, bringing up to her that I had dreams of becoming a fashion designer – to have my own line and how much it would mean to me to have her be a part of it. The seeds were definitely planted.

    After that, both sides of my family pitched in and got me a sewing machine for my birthday. But I never really touched it because I felt intimidated by it in a waya. It wasn’t until after I got laid off that I was inspired to finally take a sewing class and after that I was hooked! One day I found a tutorial online on how to make a simple bag and after that I started making my own patterns for bags, which lead to making accessories and clothes.

    One more thing — I used to have these reoccuring dreams, as a kid and througout college, about hand-sewing with a spool of thread and needle. I would always be afraid that the needle would poke my eye. I stopped having those dreams when I started pH. Also I do have a vivid memory of myself standing in my walk-in closet in high school and the words “fashion design” would pop into my head. I would immediately dismiss it because it never occured to me that you could actually make a career out of it. Interesting, no??

    Like best about what you do?

    I get to be creative and design fashion! Haha I’m obsessed with fashion. I love clothes, accessories, bags and putting it all together to make my statement to the world. It’s fun!

    You know, I used to ask everyone this random question…”If you could be a genius in art, music or science…what would it be?” I would immediately answer ART, even before science. I yearned to be an artist. It feels good that I know I am one now.

    Like least about what you do?

    Haha! Unfortunately, designing is really about 3-5% of the actual business of fashion design. But that’s what it ultimately is — a business. The business aspect of it really is such an incredble undertaking. Its definitely difficult for me because its not my forte. To walk that fine line in the industry of being aggressive but not annoying is not fun. To be constantly promoting myself can be exhausting because part of my personality is that I AM SHY. Haha so any business partners that would like to collaborate — HIT ME UP! I would love to meet people wanting to be a part of this industry, but have the natural knack or expertise for business, press, sales, marketing, etc.

    At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

    Hmmm I think my answer would have been a doctor, a teacher or a marine biologist (even though I didn’t really know what that was at the time – I think it just sounded cool to me). I knew from an early age that I wanted to help people somehow.

    What was your first job?

    My first job was when I was in 6th grade. I worked for my neighbor next door who sold a bunch of country-home products like wicker baskets, sheep wool dusters, and potpourri (that’s all I can remember). I organized her files and ate yummy snacks that she would whip up like caramel popcorn yummmmmm. Gosh…I love yummy food haha (foodies unite!)

    Biggest pastimes outside of work

    Hanging out with my husband and my friends. I love music – so many kinds of music. My husband is an aspiring electronic music producer/dj so we go to a lot of clubs. Go to a lot of music/band shows.

    I love to rollerskate in my knee high socks and hot pants, walk outside soaking up the beauty of nature, read interesting books – constantly feeding myself with new knowledge of a wide range of subjects, eat and cook yummy food.

    I’m a dancing queen so I love to put on my ipod and dance away even though I must look like a fool. I’m just getting into yoga, qi gong and meditation. I love it.

    Person most interested in meeting

    Angelina Jolie hands down. She is my hero — with her powerful voice, she is doing so many wonderful things in poorly developed countries that need attention, love and compassion, and money.

    I’m going to include imaginary people from the past too! Bob Marley, Che Guevarra, Borat from Kazakhstan, Shackleton, Genghis Khan, Jesus, Yum Pop and Spicy Peach at ages 2 and 6, my great-great grandparents, my mom’s dad, Shpooge’s parents, my future kids, Da Vinci, vintage junkies, the fashion obsessed, ghosts or spirits, super cute and hot chicks *yum*, fellow foodies that love to eat yummy food and talented chefs to cook me yummy food, people who are visionary artists, funny people that make me laugh, nice people to hang out with, cool people to chill with, intelligent cultural people to learn from and happy people to play with…oOooOh and people that are feeling pH! HAHA oh my god I’m delirious.

    Leader in business most interested in meeting

    I would love to meet any successful fashion designer that has established his/her brand/empire. I could really use advice on how to get to that next level of success in the industry.

    Three interesting facts about yourself

    1. I almost became an optometrist…twice. After deciding not to go to medical school — I didn’t want to take any extra classes so I took the OATs and applied to Berkeley. I got in the first year but decided I sure that’s what I wanted to do. They didn’t have deferment policy so I had to reapply the next year. I got in again but of course I still didn’t know I wanted to go. Berkeley adopted a new policy for deferment that very year – sweetness for me. As you can figure out — I never went. But it was my opportunity to see San Francisco and the Berkeley area — which I instantly fell in love with and hope to live there soon one day.

    2. I was raised Christian, but after soul searching and many undeniable personal spiritual experiences, I am now a Daoist. I listen carefully to the signs of synchronicity, nature and the ancient science of astrology. They started appearing ever since I began on my path of pH — so I truly believe I am on the right path in my life.

    3. I can shot-gun a beer in under 7 seconds

    Three characteristics that describe you

    1. compassionate
    2. open-minded
    3. love to have fun!

    Three greatest passions

    1. radiating positive energy into this world! (help those in need!)
    2. any form of ART
    3. any MUSIC that moves me

    Favorite books

    Animal Speak – Ted Andrews
    Many Lives, Many Masters – Dr. Brian Weiss
    Harnessing the Power of Coincidence – Deepak Chopra (about synchroicity)
    Manipulating Fabric – Wolff
    Family Crests of Japan
    Searching for the Perfect Beat
    The Intuitive Tarot
    Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu
    ANY book about Synchronicity, metaphysics, the universe, spirituality, history, art, music, design, cooking
    If you Give a Mouse a Cookie
    Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

    Favorite cause

    How I can just pick one? or even several?
    The list is never ending. There are so many causes in this world that needs to be addressed – big or small, foreign or local, cultural or domestic. Please find something that is personal to you and start there. We can never stop helping!!

    global warming! (please watch An Inconvinient Truth)
    LiNK – Liberty in North Korea
    Breast Cancer Awareness/any cancer awareness

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