| Interview |
hey’re based in london, and they show at London Fashion Week, but to call them British designers would be erroneous. Peter Pilotto, half-Austrian and half-Italian, and Christopher De Vos, half-Belgian and half-Peruvian, have made it clear that their diverse backgrounds have helped them stand alone amid the British punk-fashion scene. Together, the duo started a brand that merges classic and ladylike silhouettes, but with a modern twist. At just three years old – infancy in the fashion world – the Peter Pilotto collections have ignited recognition and commendation from viewers and wearers alike. But right now they’re exhausted from jet lag. It’s their first time in Hong Kong, and 33-year-old Pilotto and 30-year-old De Vos, who have been whisked to and from events, laugh that they wish they could hold interviews in a taxi or a tour bus – just so they can see the sights. From what they’ve seen so far, they’re impressed with the city’s creative energy and its inhabitants. It’s a city they say they must visit again – perhaps when they have more than a couple of days to spare.
Many make the mistake that there’s only one man behind Peter Pilotto. How did you two meet, and how was the brand first created? Pilotto: We started together in Antwerp. We met in 2000 [at Royal Academy of Fine Arts] and I guess right from then, each other’s work was important. It happened organically. I started the brand right after school while Christopher was still at school. In 2004, 2005, I started with smaller collections of T-shirts, and then in 2007 Christopher joined and we decided that we would have a show. We decided to do a bigger collection, and that changed everything. That’s the reason it’s only my name. The brand already existed, then we decided to keep it that way, because we didn’t like all the other options that we could think of, name-wise.
peter pilotto and christopher de vos
It Takes Two Peter Pilotto and his co-designer behind the Peter Pilotto brand, Christopher De Vos, chat with andrea cheng about how rock climbers inspired their elegant spring/summer 2011 collection
Since your first joint collection in 2008, the brand has grown rapidly – recognition from critics and celebrities, including the Best Emerging Talent Award at the British Fashion Awards in 2009. De Vos: It’s great. It’s great to have had so much recognition from amazing personal stores, like Joyce, and having the opportunity of being here. I don’t think it’s been going fast. We’ve been quite hard-working, and we continue to have a lot of energy and passion, so we appreciate this. The designer award was such great recognition. What’s the best thing about working together? Pilotto: That the other one always has a fresh eye. It’s a good way to analyse things, because sometimes when you do something, you’re very much in it, and it’s sometimes hard to create a distance. We decide everything together and brainstorm, and then each one goes off and develops things. De Vos: We push each other a lot since we started. Are there differences in opinion, creatively? How do you overcome arguments?
50 Prestige RUNWAY Spring/Summer 2011
De Vos: Time. Time heals everything. We’re creative and we have opinions and we have egos and it takes time. We started to work together, and obviously we learn how to work with each other. The problem is when you don’t express yourself properly and things get lost. You have to present to each other properly. Pilotto: We never have major disagreements. But if we have, we explain to each other the reason why we like or dislike something. It never really is a problem. It’s just about getting it right. We learn more and more about how we work together. It’s always the first impression that’s difficult to digest. De Vos: We don’t disagree on fundamental things, but sometimes it takes time to see or understand something that you may not get at the moment. You see it and you have to think about it because things grow on you. How do you each contribute to designing the collections? De Vos: Every decision is taken together. Every single piece is designed together. There’s a certain process, and there’s a certain way of splitting roles. We love the same things, but we work very differently. Peter is more into the 2D side of things, and I’m more into the 3D side of things. We split [responsibilities] and present things at a certain stage. We complement each other. Where do you draw inspiration from for collections? De Vos: Every season is a bit reactive to what we’ve done before. Things grow from past seasons, but we like to keep it exciting and go back and see what we want to do again. Your autumn/winter 2010 collection was edgier – darker, shorter – and your spring/ summer 2011 looks are very neutral, classic. De Vos: I guess it’s always important to keep that mix, and it’s true in a lot of our things, we’re edgy and classic. We looked at a lot of 1970, 1960 Yves Saint Laurent, which was amazing. We loved that he was an extension of Paris. But there were a lot of things. We
got this book on rock climbers – amazing colours. Even if you don’t see inspiration directly, the connection is there. It’s often that we start at some point because we need to get inspired, but we keep evolving through the season and it becomes something else. Pilotto: It’s a way of seeing and looking at things. What we liked about the rock climbers is the sense of freedom and that wind blowing their clothes and faces. So we thought to mix that with elegance – a printed scarf flying in the air. The starting point for the draping was the idea of flying scarves. That was also the idea for the prints. The print reveals the white because it “flew away,” and we tried to keep that idea for the silhouette. How has the brand’s style evolved? Pilotto: It has grown mature, more elegant. There’s always a variety of silhouettes. We look at [the collection] more like a wardrobe, rather than one strict silhouette. How have your past experiences influenced your new creations? De Vos: We noticed that we learn by doing. We build on some styles and still have our own classic styles as well that we come back to every season. It’s great for the buyer because she can come back to us, and she knows what the style is. There’s a lot of exploration, and we add new techniques. We’ve tried printing, beading, we do a lot of different things. It’s a lot about the new in it. Your shoes for the spring/summer 2011 collection were done in collaboration with Nicholas Kirkwood. Is this your first collaboration? De Vos: Yeah, it’s great. This is the first time we did the shoes together. He’d helped us before on an existing style, and we decided to design a shoe together. So we brainstormed, we did the research, said what we wanted and discussed and came back to the board. Your collections are strictly womenswear. Do you think you’ll expand to include menswear in the future? Pilotto: That will come much later, if at all. We want to go step-by-step and master the womenswear first and go from there. What are your dreams for your brand? De Vos: Keep doing what we’re doing. Pilotto: Being able to discover new techniques. Keep on exploring. Spring/Summer 2011 Prestige RUNWAY 51