On The Rise

Designer Peter Do's Incognito Plan to Fashion Fame

A star is born by remaining purposefully under the radar.

When Peter Do’s namesake collection launched in Paris for Spring 2019, his team packed up the clothes by hand. They carried the garments—trompe l’oeil print coats, white transparent layers, multipurpose backless dresses—into the city, where they set up a showroom inside a local living room. Do prayed that buyers might show up.

Show up, they did. Eight stockists immediately picked up the collection, including e-commerce giant Net-a-Porter, which wanted the exclusive right to sell the clothes online for two seasons. At age 26, Do inked the sort of career-making deal many designers spend decades chasing.

It was a remarkable achievement—especially for somebody with industry cache (Do won the LVMH Graduates Award and worked under Phoebe Philo at Céline) but who’d gone without major media coverage or a fashion show.

“Traditionally, you want to start a small brand by just making a few things, hiring press representation along with a large staff, throw a big party, and then gift out to influencers,” says Do. “But we took the other route, where we’re going to put` all the money back into the clothes, do the press and sales ourselves, and see what happens next.”

Here’s what happened next: Fashion media noticed the Net-a-Porter deal, critics saw the clothes, and posts like “Meet Peter Do, the Designer Pushing Tailoring Into the Next Decade” began circulating online. Now entering his third season, Do works inside a raw warehouse space in Brooklyn’s Industry City. His label has enticed the likes of Dover Street Market London and, even more significantly, Bergdorf Goodman. It’s easy to see why. There’s a maturity in Do’s designs that defy his age; aspects of traditional menswear meet ingenious fabrication and sophisticated layering. He says the collections have evolved simply by solving wardrobe problems one at a time.

Looks from Peter Do's SS2020 collection. Photos courtesy Peter Do.

“I asked around to all my friends and colleagues: What do you like? What do you wear? What do you see is missing in your wardrobe? Do you hate your sweater? Is it not warm enough?”

The answers fueled Do’s creative process; targeting a shared specific need gave his cerebral designs a jumping-off point.

The execution, meanwhile, is fueled by innovation. Do has developed a proprietary material, nicknamed “spacer,” with the help of a fabric mill in Germany. Here, he takes a transparent cloth type used in aviation and construction, and makes it thinner, less spongy, more suitable for clothing. Remaining sheer while firmly keeping its shape, the fabric appears extraordinary delicate, but is surprisingly versatile. It holds the sharp, graceful lines of his designs—even intricate pleating—effortlessly.

Presenting rich, full collections on his own timeline (twice per year) has also paid dividends. It has given retailers a greater choice and extended selling periods. Cropped shearling coats are available for spring, sheer separates available in winter. The Peter Do customer is jet-setting from one climate to the next year-round. Seasonal concerns are a nonissue.

By simply going his own way, Do is quietly challenging the established fashion system. He believes direct access to his team and a sense of discovery have been vital to his success. Bypassing the usual fashion show calendar, Do showed his most recent collection directly to the public in the form of a self-funded, self-publicized art gallery installation. Only a few editors and buyers managed to get an advance peek.

Looks from Peter Do's SS2020 collection. Photos courtesy Peter Do.

“I loved seeing all the types of people stop by, tons of people,” he says of the event. “We had everyone from local students to a gallerist from The New Museum who was like, ‘Oh, I saw this on Instagram!’”

Social media has provided an accessible way of connecting to customers that feels inclusive and personal. It adds to the appealing nature of discovery, too, enabling Do to build a significant fanbase while remaining far from the usual traps of Seventh Avenue. The customers love it, and they let him know.

“We say that we’re a brand built on our community—all 110,000 of them on the brand’s page, and 60,000 on my personal account,” says Do. “These followers are the ones that are liking posts, sharing information, commenting, watching our stories.

“They’ve watched us set up these racks, they’ve watched us go to IKEA, they’ve watched every aspect of the brand. We’ve been able to pull the curtain back. I think that creating that sense of community and being so interactive with the customer base is more than a marketing strategy. It’s really who we are.”

(Photos by Montis Songsombat)

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