Peter Do: the Phoebe Philo trained designer making clothes for real women

The designer’s nascent New York brand is fast becoming a new staple look in many women’s wardrobe.

“We don’t want to be just another Supreme drop – people buy it, sell it, and forget about it,” says designer Peter Do when asked about possible brand collaborations. “We want to collaborate, but via a long-term project that grows into something great.”

This propensity for longevity is rooted at the core of Peter Do, a nascent New York brand on a mission to make clothes for real women. The highly feminine, smartly tailored yet whimsical collections feature pieces like well-fitted suit pants – their best seller – a billowy sheer blouse, a suit jacket accented with a cutout back, and an intricately pleated dress. A piece of Do is fast becoming a new staple look in many a woman’s wardrobe. After graduating from FIT with the LVMH Graduates Award in 2014, Do cut his teeth at Céline (under Phoebe Philo) and Derek Lam before launching his namesake label early in 2018, with a group of five friends in tow (including sales director Vincent Ho whom Peter first met seven years ago, in a true millennial fashion, via Tumblr).

Do has fast amassed a cult following. To meet the growing demands of his clientele – those wanting to experience his clothes IRL – Do is hosting his first ever presentation-cum-exhibition for SS20 in New York next month. “SS20 tells a very different story from that of the last two seasons,” Ho explains, “but as a whole, it still contributes to the overall identity and core aesthetic of the brand – the focus on fabric, fit and construction.” Expect more colour, a debut jewellery and knitwear line, and a lot of skirts.

Peter Do SS19. Photography: Montis Songsombat, courtesy of Peter Do

Doing it for the real women

Do’s ethos on designing for real women is no doubt intrinsically linked to his training under the master of slick minimalism, Phoebe Philo at Céline. “I learned everything from Phoebe,” Peter tells me matter of factly. “Clothes are clothes – they are made to be put on a person. [It was at Céline] that I really got to know the woman I was designing for. Every season we would have a discussion, ‘where is she going? What is she doing? What’s her attitude?’”

Do’s affinity for women’s clothing stems from his personal aesthetic that sees him wearing Céline and others womenswear labels. “Peter has this specific relationship with womensear,” explains Ho. “He lives his life in it. He knows how the body works and relates to the shapes of the garments, the fabrics and such. I think if anybody in the office lived in menswear, it would be a different situation. We just all wear so much womenswear.”

Peter Do SS19. Photography: Montis Songsombat, courtesy of Peter Do

Spearheading sustainability

Do’s signature “spacer” fabric – developed in collaboration with a German mill while he was still in school out of a desire “develop everything on [his] own from scratch” – is key to his upcoming SS20 collection. Likened to neoprene – a sort of synthetic rubber – spacer is well-insulated, machine washable and best of all, it doesn’t wrinkle. To look at, it’s super delicate and fragile, yet it’s durable in its construction. “Something about this fabric really intrigues people – it looks like something you can’t describe.” The spacer also embodies the brand’s commitment to sustainability: “We want to make sustainable clothes that last,” Do says. “If we could all go back to making real clothes again and not make as much. Pieces that are good and informed.”

Peter Do SS19. Photography: Montis Songsombat, courtesy of Peter Do

Sensory overload

Because of this dedication to craftsmanship, tailoring and quality, the label is relatively expensive in comparison to its peers. But it’s the sensory experience it provides that’s irresistible: “We don’t have any brick and mortar stores in the US but we do in Asia and Europe,” says Ho. “Our customers who go into the store to touch it, feel it, see that the price point makes sense. The cut makes sense.” Do’s ethos has only been emboldened by the unique visual image they have panned out on social media. They hope to translate all of this into a physical space á la the Peter Do boutique at some point. “It’s in our 5-year plan,” says Ho, “Once we have all of our categories fleshed out, we’ll open a store so that people can be fully immersed in our world. We want to expand the visual language of the brand into everything – flooring, lamps, an entire world built around the brand ethos.”

Peter Do SS19. Photography: Montis Songsombat, courtesy of Peter Do

Not another hype

In a world in which logomania, brand collaborations and “drops” have long become the new normal, Do has no plans to ride the hype wave. He’d rather take things one step at a time. That’s also why he has decided to start out with an intimate presentation rather than a full runway show: “We want to introduce all the different categories first before doing a runway show. We don’t want to just put something out there that will end up in the fashion landfill,” he says. “It’s not about the hype and I think our products speak for themselves. There has to be a reason for everything we do. We ask, ‘Why this look? Why these colors? Why this collaboration?’. These plain olive green pants have been our number one seller. Women try them on and feel great in them. Then they tell their friends about them too.” In fact, the biggest press for the brand has been through a word of mouth. “You can post something on Instagram a million times but the opinions of someone who knows you are worth so much more. That’s the kind of community we want to build.”

Peter Do SS19. Photography: Montis Songsombat, courtesy of Peter Do

Leaving a legacy

While the New York fashion scene has been experiencing an upsurge in recent years, animated by bold young designers such as Eckhaus Latta and Gyspy Sport looking to shift the paradigm, it’s been a long time since New York or America has had a “fully fashioned brand”. As Ho explains, “We’re a young brand but with an emphasis on tradition, tailoring, and dressing well. These types of garments can be incorporated into your wardrobe, along with your Nikes, adidas, Vetements, atheleisures. It’s about creating staples.” They’re in this game for the long-haul.

“We’re not just creating something for the sake of it,” Do continues. “We’re creating something that comes from experience, something considered, something very personal.”

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