Peter Pilotto Talks London's Designer 'Village,' Travel Inspirations, and Color Obsessions

Photo courtesy of Peter Pilotto

Peter Pilotto, left, and Christopher De Vos.

They’ve been steadily making a name for themselves among London’s up-and-coming young designers, but there’s still plenty we don’t know about the label Peter Pilotto.

Where do they come from? Why are there two of them? And how do they dream up and produce those show-stopping prints?

Designers Pilotto and Christopher De Vos indulged FashionEtc’s questions on Monday at Saks Fifth Avenue.

First, let’s talk about the Spring collection—which is new in stores now. What was the inspiration behind the collection?

Pilotto: Spring was all about the idea of vibrancy—the colors are like those you see in tropical places. We started that theme for cruise, and then we went on a holiday to Indonesia, where we saw all these amazing tropical plants and flowers and different places. It was amazing. During the trip, we really didn’t think about the collection at all, but after that and after we got home, the memory was really an inspiration. It was what we wanted to express sin the collection, the amazing dimension of those tropical leaves.

De Vos: There was a bit of a scuba inspiration as well. We did a collaboration with Lisa Marie Fernandez as well, where we bonded our prints onto the neoprene. All of that complemented the look of the show.

Your prints are incredible. Can you walk me through the process of how you create them?

De Vos: It’s about the prints, but it’s also about the fit of the dresses, and the interaction between the fit and the print.

Pilotto: We start by choosing the colors we want to work with, and finding ways to make them really intense—by putting reds next to pinks, and greens next to yellows to achieve a really intense shade. Then we see what’s the best position to place it on the body, so it’s kind of a collage of colors. Then it goes further into looking into the real fine elements of the print. It’s important for us that the prints look good from afar, but also that you have really nice detail up close.

De Vos: It’s always about a desire for color first. This season, we translated that to beading. We worked with sequins and played with it in a different way.

Pilotto: I think it’s very important for our brand that the starting point of things is very classic. The classic thing to do when doing prints is look at nature, and that’s what we do, but then we do it in a different way—our way. It’s classic, yet very new and very us.

What else inspires your work?

Pilotto: It’s a big mix of things. We look a lot at contemporary artists. It’s kind of an eclectic mix.

De Vos: We’ve been very lucky to travel a lot. Wherever we go, we try to take a bit from where we are. We traveled a lot to Asia last year, so that must have influenced the collection—especially winter. We went to China for the first time, and we never saw anything like it. And then we travel a lot in our imaginations!

Photos: Imaxtree

Looks from the Peter Pilotto Spring 2012 runway.

What’s your working relationship like?

Pilotto: We brainstorm and come up with a theme of the collection. We research separately, and then send each other what we find. We might design separately, but it’s a constant dialogue.

De Vos: The ultimate decision is always together. Before starting in fashion, Peter was going between fashion and graphic design, and I was between fashion and architecture, so…

Pilotto: So we have different approaches. I might work out the prints with our team, and Christopher works on patterns and fit. But we constantly look at things together. It’s impossible to separate them and say this garment was done by one of us. It never is.

Why is it only your name on the collection, Peter?

Pilotto: I started the brand before Christopher joined. After I graduated, people wanted to buy my graduation collection, and then I started up producing that and producing smaller collections. Only after moving to London in 2008, we decided to start working together, but already stores had been buying the collection. It was too difficult to change the name, so we just explain to everybody that it’s the two of us.

How did you two meet?

De Vos: We studied in Antwerp, Belgium. It was four or five years of studies, and it was pretty intense. People ask me, how’s Antwerp? Well, it’s small!

Pilotto: It’s easy to concentrate on your studies because there’s nothing else to do!

De Vos: It’s tiny. But then we moved to London. London’s so exciting. There’s such great support for young designers—starting up without that would be so impossible.

Are you two together, or are you just business partners?

De Vos: We’re together.

Is it difficult for you to separate your personal lives and your work?

De Vos: We’ve learned how to work with each other…

Pilotto: And how to be caredul.

De Vos: Everything has been organic. In the past four years, we’ve really learned how to work with each other.

Pilotto: We talk about work at the right time.

Photos: Imaxtree

Looks from the Peter Pilotto Fall 2012 runway

What’s it like being part of the fashion community in London?

Pilotto: It’s a really good atmosphere.

De Vos: We’re all friends, we go on trips together. We just went to L.A. where we presented our collection with a group of British designers. It was great to do all of that. [We went with] Jonathan Saunders, Mary Katrantzou, Roksanda [Ilincic], Richard Nicoll…it was fun!

Pilotto: It’s quite a relaxed atmosphere in London.

De Vos: And we all live in the same neighborhood, so we bump into each other. It’s fun. It’s like a village.