Design duo Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos are the brains behind Peter Pilotto, the London-based brand known for its innovative use of bold digital prints. The designers who first met whilst studying at the prestigious Royal Academy of Antwerp took the fashion world by storm when they launched their label in 2007.
The creative duos jumped off their flight from London and came directly to the Bazaar Capsule at The Mall of the Emirates in Dubai to join Rosemin Manji on-stage to talk about technology, success and what it takes to make it big in the digital economy.
Rosemin Manji: You started your label in 2007, you studied at the Royal Academy in Antwerp together. Tell us a bit about your experience studying there.
Peter Pilotto & Christopher De Vos: We met in the first year as students at the academy in 2000.It was There were a few of us who became friends and it was such a great moment as we all had different experiences that lead us to the Academy. It was so interesting to work with people from across the world and learn not only from the amazing academy but also from each other. We met as students and we both had different focuses that complemented each other so well that it was a very natural choice to work together.
Rosemin Manji: When Harper's BAZAAR Arabia announced that you were coming to The Bazaar Capsule at World of Fashion 2019, we had so many young designers reach out to us because your story is one that has always inspired them. Your clothes were picked up by retailers when you were fresh graduates and that is so rare, how did that feel?
Peter Pilotto & Christopher De Vos: Well as you can guess, it was amazing and we continue to be amazed year after year and that’s what keeps us going. We still remember Rihanna being one of the first stars to pick up our designs. This was at a time before we lived on our cell phones and we remember getting a call from a friend who told that Rihanna has worn our dress to the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. Apparently she had bought it at a boutique in LA and had no idea!
Rosemin Manji: What would be your advice to fashion design students who are looking to start their own label today?
Peter Pilotto & Christopher De Vos: Digitalization has presented both opportunities and challenges for them. On one hand, you are able to get more exposure because of the internet and social media, you no longer need to live in a fashion metropole to be noticed. But on the other hand, the pace continues to pick up and the attention spans are gown down. To succeed its important that designers specialize their on their brand’s unique aspects in order to stand out from the crowd and captivate audiences.
Rosemin Manji: Christopher, you have lived in Abu Dhabi amongst other places in the Middle East whilst growing up. How have those experiences shaped you and what you do?
Christopher De Vos: Yes I did! I spent 6 years in the Middle East growing up and lived across Egypt, Jordan and Abu Dhabi. I feel these childhood memories and cultural experiences have really shaped out my love for calligraphy, vibrant prints and embellishment. All those experiences are just in me, and are a part of who I am as a designer.
Rosemin Manji: You are known for your use of digital prints within your designs. Can you tell us the impact that digital printing has had on your brand?
Peter Pilotto & Christopher De Vos: We were encouraged to think ahead and incorporate technology into our design process at the Royal Academy of Antwerp. One of our professors introduced us to digital printing, a process which revolutionized the manner in which prints were approached and developed. We tried it out and really like it for the manner in which it allowed us to play around with our designs as we could now print smaller pieces of fabrics. It was a rational and practical option that allowed us to be creative. There was a big trend for bold digital prints at the time we launched our brand and we happened to be ready for it just at the right time!
Rosemin Manji: How has the manner in which you utilize digital printing changes over time?
Peter Pilotto & Christopher De Vos: Digital printing is an important aspect of our brand but we have worked to ensure that it hasn’t become the entire focus for our collections. We have evolved digital printing and merged it with artisanal techniques this season so our prints where created digitally but hand painted manually – its about striking a balance and evolving our techniques over time and keeping everything fresh.
Rosemin Manji: Modest fashion is a big movement in the industry right now. What are your thoughts on it?
Peter Pilotto & Christopher De Vos: We have never thought of it as a trend, its just another approach which gives us options of dressing differently. It’s a natural way of dressing elegantly and we have never thought of it any other way.
Rosemin Manji: You always showed at London Fashion Week but this season was the first time you showed at Milan Fashion Week – congratulations! How did that feel?
Peter Pilotto & Christopher De Vos: It really was an incredible experience. I am half Italian but have never lived there so it was really nice to be able to explore my roots that way. Also, a lot of our products are made in Italy and we really love the country for everything it has to offer, so it was a great experience to be able to tell our story from a slightly different perspective this year. We have always had a really strong relationship with the British Fashion Council and we still do, everyone understands that after a certain time, its important to explore other avenues for your brand’s journey.
Rosemin Manji: You surprised the world with the incredible wedding dress you designed for Princess Eugenie last year. Was this your first experience designing a wedding dress? How did this come to be and what was the experience like?
Peter Pilotto & Christopher De Vos: We designed a dress once for a friend of ours before but this was big. Princess Eugenie had been wearing our clothes for years and felt very comfortable in them, so she reached out to us. We had never actually met her or interacted with her before so it was a very nice surprise. For her, it was important that the dress incorporated important elements of her background and upbringing. We worked with her to develop a custom Italian jacquard made up of symbols that were important and relevant to her. Once we developed the fabric, we draped it to create the silhouette. She was really amazing and so easy to work with!
Rosemin Manji: What can customers expect next from your brand?
Peter Pilotto & Christopher De Vos: Our website has just launched and we are very excited about that as we can now reach so many people directly across the globe. We don’t want to say too much but we are always working on new projects so we have a few exciting things lined up.