Interview: Fashion Designer Peter Jensen

ELENA PALA chats with designer Peter Jensen.

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Twelve hours’ unpaid work, wearing a silly orange hat and harassing visitors at one of the best known museums in London: any takers? How about free booze and the thrill of lounging in a backstage area swarming with models, frenzied dressers and fabulous clothes? For me it was heaven.

I was working at the V&A Fashion in Motion extravaganza, a series of live catwalk events set against a unique backdrop.

This successful series brings catwalk shows by leading international designers to the public free of charge: previous editions showcased collections by Alexander McQueen, Christian Lacroix, Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood. I was privileged enough to catch up with Peter Jensen at the event.

Elena Pala: How do you choose your best pieces, when you love them all?

Peter Jensen: For a show it’s very complicated. You can’t just pick your favourite pieces. Everything must fit together in the running order, everything has to make sense – the show must flow, it needs to be a story in itself and not just a random selection of looks. It was hard but we had a lot of fun putting it together, going through our entire archive and rediscovering our collections.

EP: Tell us about your time at Central St. Martins?

PJ: I have nothing but positive things to say about that place. I had a great time there! I liked the atmosphere of healthy competition – it doesn’t have to be mean, but it helps the industry a lot if everyone wants to be the best, to do better than everyone else in their course.

EP: How did you feel being scouted by Italian distribution company Eo Bocci Associati?

PJ: They came to Central St. Martins, looking to invest in fresh blood. And I couldn’t believe they picked me! I didn’t even want to start my own label, I would have been happy to work for a good designer and learn from them. But it happened. So here I am! My friend Tim Walker photographed a few of my designs, for Vogue Italia – and woah, I thought, if they’re good enough for them, maybe they’re actually good!

EP: During your time at St Martins what was student style like and what’s your advice to us mere mortals who want to look cool but don’t have hours to put an outfit together? 

PJ: Well, first of all, things were very different in the ’90s! Topshop and other popular brands of today did not exist, and high street labels in general were not in favour. So obviously everyone was after second-hand deals…you could find a pair of Levi’s jeans for £2.

Everyone does vintage today but back then it was quite new. So don’t imagine us wearing Prada’s latest designs to class! But the most important thing is to develop your own style. There’s no universal rule to be stylish: find out what works for you and experiment with that!

You heard the man. And if you need inspiration, check out his V&A show here.