Peter Jensen opened my London Fashion Week round of presentations, events and shows a day before the schedule kicks off in earnest in a behind-the-scenes invitation to see his lookbook being shot, which culminates the creation of the AW1 7 collection and opens the wholesale business selling season. Peter told me that this open presentation style takes him back to the birth of his label, mirroring his first ever presentation back in 2000. Peter set up at the Shacklewell Lane studios, just down the road from where today's shoot took place and was the first of a number of designers to move in 'when it still had a Vietnamese sweatshop in the basement' and 'you had to step over drug addicts to enter the building'. Long gone are those days, but it's surely a business that has solid foundations that is still based in the same studio post- East London gentrification, sixteen years down the line.
Peter talks me through the collection, including a hand-illustrated female muses print, including Jodie Foster, Nina Simone and Shirley Kurata by Julie Verhoeven that adorns shirts and dresses, alongside his favourite corduroy, which he just can't depart from due to his Scandinavian roots and the nostalgic memories the fabric conjures up. His strong grasp on the commercial silhouettes that work for his brand, and explanations of the fabric compositions and weights that sell well demonstrate the maturity that comes with sixteen years in the business. Hence this collection being entitled "Greatest Hits".
This collection marks the Peter Jensen brand's sixteenth, and he's not showing any signs of giving up the playful thread that has run through his collections to date. I ask if adulthood in two years time will spell a grown-up direction, to which he laughs before introducing me to these pieces designed in collaboration with Nickelodeon to mark another birthday - SpongeBob SquarePants eighteenth. Peter Jensen's signature rabbit logo takes centre stage, alongside SpongeBob and his pet Gary. Nickelodeon collaborated with a number of designers, including Jensen, for the 27 piece range which is part of the SpongeBob Gold brand, launching commercially in May.
The chance to see the team working on the shoot, the mood-boards informing the styling and photography and the collection details and textiles up close, as explained by Peter, helps to understand the entire commercial and creative aspects of the fashion business. Fashion week often serves up one without the other, which isn't bad, it just isn't whole either.
Happy sweet sixteen Peter, and many happy returns.
Photographer: Amy Gwatkin
Stylist: Alice Goddard