Since 2006, Derek Lam has lent his New York urban aesthete to the rich traditions of Italian craftsmanship as Creative Director for Tods. The current bounty of this union was recently unveiled at the brand’s Beverly Hills boutique to benefit the Los Angeles MOCA. During the event, W caught up with the designer to discuss a few of his favorite things.

You recently re-signed as Creative Director for Tods. Have your duties with the brand increased, changed with your new contract?
No, they haven’t really changed. I lead design and keep each season fresh from a design perspective. For me, working with Tods is like falling into a family. It’s so dynamic. Every moment is fresh. Although I’m the Creative Director, it’s not really about a hierarchy. It is a group collaboration.

Do you take a different approach to designing Tods than you do with your own line?
In terms of design, the approach is very close to my own philosophy to design and clothing. It flows from a familiar aesthetic. Derek Lam is the immediate emotional response to design, while Tods is the real heart of the thought. I think the only real difference is that at Tods the ideas are very focused. Whether it’s ready-to-wear, accessories or handbags, I focus on the fifteen key items that women should have for the season.

What do you like most about working with an established Italian design house?
Italian design is really about having a satisfying product. It’s not about the newest or the most forward thing in fashion or style. [At Tods] we aren’t tied to a fashion system. We aren’t about a season in and season out. We don’t believe in change for the sake for the change or sacrificing the integrity of the product. I don’t personally believe that we have to redesign everything four times a year. We don’t have to throw everything out. That is very archaic. Of course we want to keep it modern, fresh and of-the-moment, but the true artistry is in the quality of the materials and product.

Tell us about the Spring/Summer collection.
The Tods Spring/Summer 2011 collection was inspired by gardens and outdoor living, like you would have in Italy or even California. I researched the gardens of Villa d’Este for this naturalness. They are groomed in a very Italian, manipulated, perfected way…natural, but touched. Some shoes have a garden feeling but are elevated with crocodile straps and wooden sole. Other peasant sandals are given a modern twist. Everything is soft. Softness was really a preoccupation for us, but it’s not like there isn’t any structure. There is still a form, a defined silhouette… but the touch is soft and cozy.

What are your favorite items from the new collection?
My favorite is the wooden sole sandal with the crocodile straps. We’ve been talking about wearing longer lengths this season. This shoe would be great to wear outdoors, in a garden, in a long bohemian dress.