“It was always my dream to have my own label,” explains the Holland born, London based designer Sebastiaan Pieter. “I saw an opportunity to fulfil that after I graduated, and being in my twenties means that few things are restricting me from giving my brand my all.”
It was with this attitude for the practical then, that Pieter, the designer’s eponymous label, was founded in 2013, following his graduation from the Bespoke Tailoring BA at London College of Fashion the previous year (his final collection picked up the college’s prestigious ‘Collection of the Year’ award, the first menswear designer to ever do so).
Moving to the capital at 17 to attend Central Saint Martins (he did his foundation there too, aged 19), Sebastiaan interned first at lifestyle title Monocle and later at Fantastic Man, providing him with, presumably, a unique understanding of the fashion industry’s other side: one that would later contribute to the trajectory of his fashion line.
A further work placement saw him at Jil Sander under then creative director Raf Simons: “Seeing Raf and the team putting together a show was greatly inspiring,” he recalls of the experience, “you see the attention to detail, how the collection was built up from mood and colour to final pieces and then how the looks were styled together by Raf; you couldn’t find a better training ground.”
Pieter, the label, made its London Collections: Men debut for AW14, off schedule at the Southward Reid gallery and, since SS16, has received sponsorship from the acclaimed NEWGEN Men programme.
Something of a big deal – backing comes from Topman and the British Fashion Council while Lulu Kennedy, Caroline Rush and Charlie Porter all sit on the committee – the recognition has been paramount confirms the designer.
“It has been an incredible support of my business, not only is it amazing to have this stamp of approval from the people on the panel, but the BFC and Topman also offer a great amount of support behind the scenes, which as a young designer you can’t do without,” he asserts. Branded with those crucial six letters, the tag also acts as a platform to attract would-be buyers from the world’s most lucrative stores (Harvey Nichols, Japan’s Cement and Atelier in the US are all present stockists).
“The Pieter man warrants a second look,” reckons Sebastiaan as the conversation changes course. “Our masculine looks are intended for a man confident and aware of his body.”
Last season this notion was explored with acronyms and phrases derived from gay dating culture and the Grindr app (‘HH’ – high and horny – ‘cruise’), offset by a collection that borrowed references from Robert Mapplethorpe’s work. In a season when J.W. Anderson partnered the gay social app for a live stream of his menswear show, and Diesel moved its advertising focus likewise to Grindr (and Tinder, Pornhub and YouPorn), the Pieter collection was a player in a wider conversation regarding sex selling fashion.
“I’m not sure porn is something we consider for the collection,” notes the designer, “not for AW16 at least. The collection was inspired by Mapplethorpe’s work and gay semiotics. I was very happy with the response it got, maybe surprised by how overwhelmingly positive people reacted to something slightly perverse.”
For his forthcoming SS17 collection – a Sunday lunch time presentation happening this weekend, again with the support of the establishment – Sebastiaan has returned to the art world for inspiration, this time spotlighting the Cuban artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres (select works from whom appear above).
“I get inspired by contemporary art a lot,” he acknowledges, “This season there were a lot of ideas that resonated with me in (Gonzalez-Torres’) work, so I wanted to incorporate it in the collection.”
Hold tight for how he translates this to cloth.
Words: Zoe Whitfield