Checking In: Designer Peter Pilotto on California Beach Culture and “Riotous” Color

Peter Pilotto and partner Christopher de Vos are among London's most buzzed-about young talents; leaders among a new generation of promising English "print-masters," whose pieces have become increasingly popular in New York both on the streets and in stores like Opening Ceremony.

While the pair have always been known for pretty print experiments and careful color palettes, a daringly bright spring 2011 collection--for which they rejuvenated two historically frumpy design elements: pleats and mid-calf skirts---has ushered in a wave of commercial and editorial success for the brand. And based on photos of their gorgeous new resort collection, it seems Pilotto and de Vos have no problem living up to the hype. We caught up with Pilotto to hear about his unusual inspiration sources, and how he and de Vos continue to differentiate themselves from the wave of print-driven brands crowding UK runways.

What inspired your new Pre-Spring collection?
Part of our inspiration came from our recent trip to the US.  One of our stops was in California, where we experienced Californian beach culture for the first time, which we feel really transpires in the collection. The colorfulness, attitude and flora in some parts of the coastline and all around joyfulness was something we wanted to bring across in this Pre-Spring 2012 collection. Patterns, together with prints, were then meticulously assembled to create each individual garment.
Another influence was Belgian artist Walter Leblanc's optical artworks which served as a palette for the collection. The riotous colors, typical of the 60's, was something we wanted to represent as it portrayed a period of great happiness! The intense natural colors make the designs stand out and make them instantly recognizable like the choice of clothing that has been the trademark of some 60's counter-culture movements and that are still very apparent in California.
You and Christopher De Vos have worked together since college. How do you combine two visions into a coherent collection?
In college, we realized that we had similar tastes and were attracted to the same things, but often for different reasons. One of the best ways to express our complimentary tastes is the fact that Christopher was choosing between studying architecture and fashion and [I was choosing between] graphic design or fashion. This shows our two different perspectives where Christopher sees things in relief and I have a more graphic 2D perspective.
So many brands in London are focusing on prints right now. How do you think you've differentiated yourself?

Our collections always have a combination of print and shape which we believe leads to a flattering result. It is important to us not only the print but how it molds to the female form.  

How did you react when you first heard Michelle Obama had worn one of your looks?
We were ecstatic and honored.

Who else would you love to see in a Peter Pilotto design?
It is hard to say: We always love to be surprised like with Michelle Obama or more recently Samantha Cameron. The garments we feel portray a woman that is confident and powerful and that isn't afraid to be bold or to stand out from the crowd.

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