Her words unsnap energy and change. Peir Wu is one of those designers who remain faithful to their philosophy, but are also witnesses of their time. She questions herself in her own answers, unveils her processes and tries to find out how to solve problems and stand out in the world of design by finding a very contemporary balance between functionality, aesthetics, concept and motivations. She defines her progress as a flow, not as a battle between what’s good or bad or what’s more simple and important. She just enjoys what she does.
Being one of the most remarkable designers of our generation, tell us: which would be the concepts that define you as a designer?
I had the phrase ‘Casual Futurism’ trademarked last year –I felt it defined the harmony of the values of my brand so well. I also like the idea that futuristic fashion is not a forced aesthetic, but an improved sartorial practice…
What referents do you have? Is there any author or designer you’d like to mention?
I’m a great admirer of Douglas Tompkins, the creative director of Esprit de Corp in the 80’s. I found his book Esprit: A Comprehensive Design Principle at the bottom of a bargain bin somewhere and loved it. I looked into his background after and found out he was a high-school dropout, climber as well as an entrepreneur –he had founded The North Face in the 60s, making high quality climbing clothes, outdoor gear and invented bendable pole tents. Tompkins has pretty much collaborated with all the designers I admire: Ettore Sottsass, Shiro Kuramata, Oliviero Toscani… All the forward thinking, original guys around that era who were tenacious in spirit and always challenging the status quo.
You were part of the Raf Simons’ team, how was the experience?
I worked for the Raf Simons’ team at an interesting time period while Raf was evolving the brand’s aesthetic. AW08 and SS09 were the seasons leading up to its transition into the hyper-future vibe we recognise it for now, and it was an incredible experience to work there and be a part of that process. Raf was getting increasingly interested in another mode of expression, he had been working on a certain image for years and was always asking himself: ‘what’s new, what’s next?’ He always lead a few seasons ahead other designers by addressing these kinds of questions. What really stayed with me after all these years was that everyone on his small team were so open and encouraged to be upfront with their opinions. To this day I use it in my own practice, and have found this way of creatively collaborating –outside of one’s silo– proves to be integral in creating forward-thinking work. I grew a lot as a creative/designer from my time being around Raf and his team because they dedicated themselves to their integrity and each other.
Men’s fashion is becoming increasingly relevant, every time there are more designers offering different shapes and unconventional proposals. In your case, why did you decide to focus on men?
When I first arrived in London as a Central Saint Martins student, menswear was an untapped market. There was traditional Saville Row tailoring, commercial American sportswear, and conceptual, avant garde designers. It was an area in fashion that seemed full of opportunity and ripe for new ideas, and that excited me. What I like most about menswear is that there’s a cognitive element needed in order to design it –you’ve got to have some sense and you’ve got to think about who you’re designing for. It’s about men and their life philosophies, about the right materials, the kind of silhouette they want to wear, and if the clothing is functional. It’s all these factors coming together like a puzzle that makes designing for men a sexy and worthy challenge.
So far we observe your designs have a strong balance between shape, concept and trend. How does your creative process start? What’s the part you enjoy the most?
The Peir Wu ethos is that men’s clothing should be as immaculate as it is incredibly functional. I’m thinking about: ‘what is the modern man’s wardrobe?’ all the time; and it’s often triggered by problems that need to be solved, like for example: ‘what do versatile traveling clothes for fashionable men look and feel like?’ Since I travel a lot myself, I need clothing that’s smart, beautiful and translatable between occasions. Personally, my favorite go-to travel piece is an Issey Miyake Pleats Please dress –I can dress it up or down, wear it with a shirt I made. Since AW15 I’ve been developing a capsule collection called the ‘Travel Series’, pieces which are mostly of water-resistant, Japanese technical nylon with a crinkle finish. Trans-seasonal and transportable smart travel clothing for men.
Behind each of your pieces we can sense an exhaustive research, is there any specific piece you really enjoy working on, at a formal level?
Creating the Peir Wu artisanal pieces are the most enjoyable, because it’s the part of making the collection where I can really let loose and design purely with intuition. ‘The Artisanal Series’ are always left to the end of my design process, because I see it as a sort of meditative reflection on the entire season’s proposition and it’s often these pieces that are the most unique and unexpected.
While I was designing Spring Summer 16, I flew out to New York City to see my best friend and creative producer Veronica So, who works with me on a seasonal basis to brainstorm, plan and solidify collection concepts and campaigns. We rented a cabin in upstate New York and spent time out in nature to discuss and think about the SS16 collection. It turned out to be an extremely productive break, stepping back in order to define and solidify the season’s concepts in a new, refreshing way.
You propose a personal style, a bit minimalistic in the shapes, free from ornaments. How would you define the profile of the user of your pieces?
My clientele comes from all walks of life –there are lawyers, product designers, bankers, computer engineers, architects. While they do different jobs and are from different countries, they share similar traits and a common outlook: they’re intelligent, efficient men with a no-bullshit attitude towards life. They like their hand-picked clothes to serve them functionally and aesthetically. It’s these men who have legitimized the brand ethos, and set the bar for high standards.
In your S/S2015 collection you also show your talent designing for women, what differences between one and the other would you remark?
Women are more complicated to design for, not just physically but also philosophically.
I find their wants and needs much more complex, but for S/S 15 I explored womenswear as an extension of menswear in a unisex collection, and that was really fun.
I guess that there’ve been many difficulties to get where you are now. Tell us a bit about your professional success. What have been the key steps or people?
I think some of the most important people to my brand are my business mentor Chris, as well as my dad and brothers. They are all entrepreneurs and have taught me to trust my gut and that everything that happens is neither good nor bad, but a state of flux. More recently, I’ve had Veronica come on board to plan collection campaigns and the label’s branding. Philip Rouse works on the sales front with an incredibly focused and strategic business sense and works with me on solidifying the product range. We all care passionately about what we make and put out in the world, and it’s working with such like minded people that keeps me true to my vision.
How do you see the future of the industry? What are your ambitions? What role do you think your studio will play in the world of fashion?
As I see it, the fashion system is imploding on itself –there is a fashion week practically every month of the year. The industry is continuously hungry for more, new things. Consumers buy on impulse and it’s incredibly unsustainable, for designers and the world. I aim to design and sell clothing made to last and provide sustainable and beautiful collections for the modern man, that is my goal. Hopefully my designs will contribute to and inspire responsible economy where customers feel incredibly satisfied with their purchases –and that they last– in the long term. There's a lot of opportunity out there, but if we align what we do with our personal values instead of being swept up by the pressures of a trend-driven industry, it will set us apart as an independent and future thinking studio.