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This article appears in Volume 28: The Cities Issue
Meet Peter Do. His eponymous Brooklyn-based label is just a year and a half old, yet it’s already stocked at Net-a-Porter and is beloved by stylists and buyers everywhere. Meanwhile Do’s uniquely feminine suiting can be found inside the most fashion-forward magazines and filling the social media feeds of trend-averse tastemakers worldwide. The brand is sophisticated, thoughtful and detail-oriented; the person, equally so.
Do frequently visits art galleries and spends copious time in the library researching his collections. He translates his interests in art and interiors and his fascination with mundane objects into elements of design. Spring/Summer 2019 featured wardrobe staples inspired by Irving Penn’s book Small Trades, whereas Fall/Winter 2019 references vintage cars and Spring/Summer 2020 utilises colour in a way that praises the work of Mark Rothko and Ellsworth Kelly.
Each season the designer explores new themes and ways of working, but he always returns to his goal of making beautiful, interesting daywear for the modern woman – an objective that he shares with his former mentor, Phoebe Philo. While Do has garnered substantial attention for his sleek aesthetics, his utmost concern is wearability. He is continually refining his fits and developing new fabrics that stretch more and wrinkle less.
Despite the remarkable success of his early career, first at Celine and then at Derek Lam, and now with his namesake label, Do remains astonishingly humble. When speaking of the brand, he repeatedly uses “we” and references the team surrounding him. When it comes to discussing challenges, he’s as transparent as his signature trousers, unafraid to mention relatable concerns such as cash flow. He believes in sharing ideas and revealing his process, and is committed to showing that luxury lies in quality and doesn’t need to feel unapproachable.
How would you describe your relationship with New York?
I love it. I don’t think there’s anywhere like it. I lived in Europe for a few years between London and Paris, but I missed New York so much that I moved back. There’s an energy here that syncs with mine. Everyone is hustling and it feels as if you can do anything you set out to. I feel energised by everyone around me. The snippets of sounds we hear, from people’s conversations to the sirens and the birds – they’re an amalgamation of different facets of life that you’re put in the middle of when living in New York. One of the things we’re known for as a brand is combining contrasting elements. There’s a strong dichotomy that runs through the clothing that inherits its spirit from life in New York. We also produce everything here.
Describe the style of the Peter Do brand.
Polished and tailored, yet fun. We do calf-length skirts and knee-length shorts in sophisticated materials including silk, satin and leather, yet there are cut-outs and slits. When the woman moves, you see a flash of skin. It’s a demure yet cheeky way of playing with the duality that lies within the brand.
Can you tell us about your fall collection?
I had never seen a car before moving to Philadelphia at the age of 14. In Vietnam I lived on a farm and only ever experienced bikes or motorbikes, but in Philadelphia my family had three cars. Suddenly I spent a lot of time in the car – it’s a very American lifestyle. I realised how overlooked this experience is and how beautiful cars can be. We take them for granted, but inside a car we’re so protected. There’s also such a visual contrast between the interior and exterior. We started researching other artists who had explored this topic and came across John Chamberlain – he smashed cars together to create sculptures. We also looked at the colours of vintage cars and this became our palette. We developed a fabric out of a satin that was bonded and then crushed it together in Chamberlain’s manner.
How would you describe the modern woman?
A woman who’s making the most of her day. She doesn’t have a glam squad. She wants to look good, but also be comfortable. She’s hustling, doesn’t dilly-dally and needs to be efficient. She has a vigour and energy that mirrors the city and her lifestyle. We design our clothes to carry you through the day. I’m interested in subtle details and making improvements to fabrics and fits. I listen to the problems women have with their clothes and make changes accordingly. I work to create fabric that doesn’t wrinkle, add pockets to dresses and make pants for women with hips.
How do you find the experience of designing for your own label compared to large fashion houses such as Celine?
There’s a huge difference. I was just designing clothes, but now my job requires so much more. I have a team and more admin, but I also have more freedom to make decisions about our campaigns and production. After three seasons at Celine, I knew I was outgrowing my job. I had so much more to say than what I was able to through the clothes. Now I can share my point of view through branding, PR and sales.
How has Instagram impacted your growth?
All of our initial buyers found us there, then word of mouth trickled out. We’re copied quite often – it’s a double-edged sword. People often think we popped up overnight, when really it started by building a visual language far before the brand launched. The people who have followed us for a while resonate with us because we pull the curtain back. There are so many luxury brands that sell a fantasy, but people want to be able to relate. When I wake up in the morning, I post whatever I feel like posting. I don’t plan it out and I think that’s more genuine.
What are your hopes for the future?
We want to launch new categories such as shoes and bags, open a boutique, do a runway show and host more events.
Peter’s Guide to New York City
Dumbo, it’s cute and quiet. There are so many interesting shops and it’s by the water – Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge are close by, so you can walk across both. Try 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge for stylish serenity.
Flushing is my favourite for Asian food, especially Mapo for Korean barbecue, although Jongro BBQ in Midtown is also great. Noodle Village in Chinatown serves perfect soup dumplings. Then Jing Fong for dim sum and Madame Vo for modern Vietnamese.
Totokaelo is worth dropping into downtown, but above 14th Street you might as well go to the most iconic department store in New York, Bergdorf Goodman. Dover Street Market is also a real experience.
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