LONDON, United Kingdom — At the apartment he shares with the photographer Thomas Lohr in the London borough of Hackney, a melting pot known for its artistic and immigrant communities, Sebastiaan Pieter appeared exhausted yet eager to discuss his line: an intriguing amalgamation of stunted tailoring and Middle Eastern - and Asian-influenced silhouettes.
The 10-look menswear collection, which features dresses and skirts for men, intended as everyday workwear, is rooted in the zeitgeist of gender-bending collections by Raf Simons and JW Anderson. But, critically, Pieter's work — executed in a mix of Harris Tweed, waxed cotton and Australian wool — retains an undeniable sense of masculinity and wearability.
“I grew up in Holland, in Hilversum, a small town. I was about 14 when I discovered fashion,” the 25-year-old designer told BoF, the day after his first London Collections: Men presentation, last month. “I quickly realised that everyone went to [Central] Saint Martins, so I came to London to do a short course there when I was 17. Then, when I was 19, I did my foundation [there].”
While doing a BA in bespoke tailoring at the London College of Fashion, Pieter interned at Monocle, alongside the picture editor, as well as Fantastic Man, where he worked intermittently across a four-year period. He also worked in public relations, before doing a final internship at Jil Sander.
His graduate collection was the first menswear collection to ever win collection of the year at LCF. “It was great because certain people took note of it; like Charlie Porter [of The Financial Times] took note of it, but actually not that much happened,” he said.
After graduation Pieter headed to Paris for interviews with design houses and talent agencies, but was rebuffed. “It was tough. People were not really that interested. I had an interview with [Lanvin’s] head menswear designer, who was really enthusiastic, but he was like, ‘Great – but I don’t have a position.’”
Despite the false start, or perhaps because of it, Pieter elected to take the plunge and launch his own label, funded by savings his grandfather had set aside for his education.
“All of my internships really helped me make the decision and say, ‘Ok, I think I can do this,'" he said. "I didn’t just have experience as a designer. I knew how different people across the industry looked at a fashion brand. If you've worked at a magazine, you quite quickly come to realise why something is featured in a magazine. And seeing the buying experience and seeing how buyers respond to a collection was also really useful.”
“I also took elements from what I saw at Jil Sander, seeing how much they would spend on fabric versus what we would spend at school. You really realise the impact on the cost of the garment and what store it can be in.”
“My signature is developing,” continued Pieter. “It is too early to say that, for example, you are this person that sits right between Rick Owens and JW Anderson. It is such a learning curve. But the materials will always be luxurious, it’s tempting to use cheap material because of margins, but in the end I want it to be a luxury product, I want to make clothes that last, that people can love and feel good in.”
Pieter is currently in negotiations with an influential American stockist, who he declined to name. But top on his to-do list is securing “one retailer to build a close relationship with,” he said, adding: “To gauge a response from the consumer would be super useful. Nothing is validated until you see it on the street. I want people to wear it!”
For this month's Spotlight, Pieter designed a custom BoF logo featuring “the exclamation mark from the central focus point in my collection: the statement "Fun now!" It's a pun from a popular app that provokes social interaction — something I think we've almost become afraid of in our offline life. My clothing is there to stimulate that engagement again with the ones that surround us in real time."
“It is such a learning process when you start," added Pieter, looking back on his first season. "You don’t have anything, you don’t have your suppliers, you don’t have factories, you don’t have you PR structure set up, you are making up the marketing plan as you go – it’s definitely exciting. I was super worried about the collection and how it was going to turn out, but the thing that kept me going was that I really loved the process.”