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Why Peter Pilotto Is Going on Hiatus

Design duo Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos want to rethink the traditional ready-to-wear business model, which has proven unsustainable for many independent fashion brands.
Peter Pilotto and Christopher de Vos | Source: Courtesy
  • Rachel Deeley

LONDON, United Kingdom — Peter Pilotto duo Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos have announced they are taking a break to "reassess all aspects of the future of the brand, its structure, business model and operations," according to a statement.

“We’ve been in conversation for many months, looking into all kinds of options," Pilotto told BoF in an exclusive interview. "But we came to the conclusion that we need to pause the brand. We feel like we need to look into a more sustainable setup for what we do next."

“The Peter Pilotto brand stands for a strong aesthetic and craftsmanship,” he continued. "We feel like we need to find a rhythm that suits us better.”

Pilotto said he wanted to be able to think beyond the “development time that you have each season. If you had a little more time you could plan better....[to] plan your raw materials better and all the things that add to this famous waste in the fashion industry." The "waste," he added, includes expending resources on contingency “plan B” collections and products.

While Peter Pilotto currently has two minority investors, Pilotto and De Vos said that they are negotiating buybacks from each and will own the brand outright at the end of the process. In March 2015, the label closed its first and only external fundraising round, led by investment firm MH Luxe and then-Escada Chair Megha Mittal.

The current holding company, Pilotto De Vos Ltd, will cease to exist as of March 3, 2020, according to a filing on Companies Houses, a registrar of companies in England and Wales operated by the UK government. The company's full accounts made up to March 31, 2019 have yet to be filed and are now almost two months overdue.

Pilotto and De Vos burst onto the scene in 2007 with their signature digital-printed patterns and vibrant colour palettes, sweeping up stockists and awards well into the mid-2010s, including the Swarovski Emerging Talent award in 2010 and BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2014. The label was also awarded The British Fashion Council's NEWGEN sponsorship for Spring/Summer 2011.

Over the years, the label enjoyed its fair share of high-profile celebrity fans, including Beyoncé and Princess Eugenie, daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, who wore a Peter Pilotto wedding gown for her October 2018 nuptials.

We feel like we need to find a rhythm that suits us better.

But the old rule book of how to build a fashion brand didn't account for the challenges Pilotto and De Vos would face.

“The craftsmanship is always in our collections but we just feel like in order to [do] it to the level we want to do it, there is a lot of waste involved," Pilotto said. "That’s what we want to eliminate. It’s not about, 'How can we change forever?' but, 'How can we... do what we do, but in other ways?'"

The brand expanded into experiential retail in recent years, most notably in November 2019 with the opening of a gallery and retail space in London’s Mayfair neighbourhood showcasing archive prints alongside current ready-to-wear and homeware offerings. However, the semi-permanent installation shuttered long before it was slated to close in May 2020.

The decision to close the physical space early “was just part of the current position of the company,” Pilotto said. “In any case, that place... is our destination for interiors and furniture design... so it’s another aspect that we want to bring closer to ready-to-wear going forward.”

The news comes at a challenging time for independent brands as large strategic groups gain further control over supply chain and distribution. Peter Pilotto is just one label among the mid-aughts crop of London brands that have struggled to stay afloat, including Jonathan Saunders, who closed his namesake line in 2015 and is now focusing on furniture design. Just this past week, House of Holland's Henry Holland announced that he was stepping back from his brand and bringing in advisory firm KPMG to find new investors.

In recent years, New York has also seen a good number of once-promising brands, including Suno and Ohne Titel, shutter as well.

As for Peter Pilotto, the eponymous designer said that there hasn’t been a time frame imposed on the break: “We really want to keep [the process] very human.”

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