Wen Zhou grew up in the small town of Ningbo China. Her father, a professor, and her mother, a seamstress, taught people in the village how to sew clothes. In 1985, she and her family moved to Chinatown in New York City; she was only 12 years old and did not speak English. Zhou’s background is similar to Lim’s with Chinese immigrant parents; her mother continued to work as a seamstress and her father found work as a dishwasher. Later, with money from after-school jobs in garment factories, Zhou enrolled in marketing and business classes at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology. After landing her first full-time position cutting swatches for a textile manufacturer, she was promoted to sales. At 21 years old, she began the first of her entrepreneurial pursuits with a business selling fabric. At 26 years old, she founded her second business—an offshore clothing production which further cemented her business acumen in the garment industry.
Through a fateful and fashionable meeting in Paris, Lim and Zhou became friends. When Lim was ready to move on from Development, his first line, it took less than a heartbeat for Wen to seize the opportunity. In the Fall of 2005 Wen and Phillip launched 3.1 Phillip Lim, they were both 31 at the time.
The company’s vision of designer clothes at contemporary prices opened up the once dormant bridge (entry level designer) market. As president and CEO, of 3.1 Phillip Lim, Zhou has grown the business into a global fashion brand including womenswear, menswear, footwear, accessories and eyewear. She oversees over 100 employees and is one of the most respected leaders in the business.