Phoebe Philo's Design Legacy Lives on in Peter Do
For Peter Do, design starts on the body. Forget sketching and drafting (he learned this bit of advice from Phoebe Philo herself) and start where it matters most—where each piece will inevitably stride, reach, crouch, and crease: on the female figure. A realistic approach to design that’s laid the groundwork for each collection to date, Peter Do’s womenswear is, as you can probably expect, completely realistic, functional, and inherently wearable; all without losing the understated luxury and no-frills femininity of Phoebe Philo’s Celine, where Do spent two years training after graduating from FIT with the LVMH Graduates Award.
“Phoebe was never interested in sketching, flats, anything,” Do shared at his SS20 presentation in New York City earlier this week. “If you have an idea, she’s like ‘Okay, show me.’ We made everything on-body, had to try everything on and take photos and show her what we were really thinking about.” Do explained that starting from the body is the single most valuable piece of advice he took away from his tenure with Philo and one that he carried over to his namesake brand, Peter Do. It’s an approach that champions functionality and bypasses superficial accessory, promises longevity and rejects impractical trends. By living and breathing in designs, “we have a different relationship with clothes,” Do says. “There’s nothing too crazy, because when you put it on a person you instantly know if it’s uncomfortable.”
This claim holds true for the brand’s recent Spring/Summer 2020 debut, of which part one was shared at an installation over the weekend. The Peter Do team took to the archive (one that, thanks to the aforementioned process of endlessly iterating, is quite dense) to re-imagine a handful of core silhouettes from their Spring/Summer 2019 and Fall/Winter 2019 collections. Cut-out suitings, cargo-pocket detailed trousers, and menswear-inspired tailoring reminiscent of Phoebe’s golden years at Celine were just a few styles revisited in the latest collection. All constructed in the transparent “spacer” fabric, Do developed during his thesis at FIT—a durable, machine-washable, wrinkle-proof, ultra-breathable polymer—these familiar silhouettes take on a completely new form: independent from the body that inspired them, yet identifiably connected with the foundations of body-conscious design laid bare in their translucent, layered construction.
More so than a sales tactic or a brand marketing play, the event was a testament to Peter Do’s mastery of artisanal construction and craftsmanship. With the ideal of transparency put into every last stitch, no margin for error was given. Do’s expert seamstress (he makes Hilary Clinton’s suits, I was proudly told) spent two days constructing a single coat. The prices are steep, even for a luxury brand—a detachable apron top in the same spacer fabric rings up at $1,150—but a Peter Do piece is the culmination of years of expert training and creative thought, months of development and weeks of construction—and, unlike its trend-driven competitors, it’s all built to last for years to come.
As more designers uproot and abandon New York Fashion Week—long gone are the corporate-backed mega-brands like Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs—the event as a whole has unintentionally transformed into an opportunity for discovery. Backed by the support and warmth of New York City’s remaining enthusiasts, emerging brands like Eckhaus Latta, The Row and Priscavera are laying a new foundation for the future of American fashion. It’s never been easier to call oneself a designer, but to succeed and provoke through design is the ultimate challenge—these brands have differentiated themselves in an oversaturated and volatile market. Same is the case for Peter Do, where the timing could not be better: Philo’s absence serves as an opportunity, a void struggling to be filled in the realm of modern womenswear, and Do has arrived at just the right moment. Where Philo was a luminary for the European market, Peter Do is that and more: youthful in his vision for the modern woman and a beacon of hope for New York’s fashion scene.