There is a lot of pressure for designers to create seasonal collections. Even more so for designers who have juggled helming a big European house and a namesake brand that can result in up to ten collections a year.
Given the title of artistic director, these jobs come with an army in the design room. Still, it’s a lot to juggle, and historically, several namesake designers reached burnout, often in explosive public ways, such as John Galliano‘s downfall at Dior.
Buzzy designer Peter Do tackled three different collections for Spring 2024, from his highly anticipated bow at Helmut Lang, to a Paris Fashion Week inaugural show for his namesake collection that included a selection of the Banana Republic collaboration Do also crafted. Each show had its own POV reaction from buyers and media, from panned at one, to raved about the others. Looking at Do’s current trajectory, FashionNetwork.com dissects this unusual display from one designer in a singular season.
Fashion critic Cathy Horyn wrote in her review for The Cut that Do “didn’t quite hit the mark,” and also recalled the context that made Helmut Lang achieve genius status; he proposed luxed-up basics in precision cuts in contrast to the high glam sexiness of Versace, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Thierry Mugler that ruled when he entered fashion in the late 80s.
Horyn suggested that Do will have to aim higher as Lang’s utilitarian codes are as ubiquitous as Uniqlo these days, writing “On Do’s runway, they were merely reiterations of Lang signifiers — devoid of meaning. The same was largely true of his tailoring. My thought while watching the show was: ‘These clothes are not cool. And they could be.'”
Like many critics, Horyn was singing a different tune by the time Do arrived in Paris with his runway debut in the City of Lights for his namesake, which featured Banana Republic pieces. Here, the seasoned critic wrote, “Peter Do tucked in about ten looks he created for the brand in his show on Tuesday. It was a seamless move, with Do’s signature kilt (in black cotton), a pair of trousers, and some cool henley and tank tops. His collection sharply reflected his urbane tailoring and, at the same time, expanded it with well-cut, two-tone black pants, a sleeveless black-leather jacket wrapped over a black skirt, and a clever, minimalist white dress with an oval-shaped front in sheer red. He was right to bring his act to Paris.”
Robert Burke Associates founder and CEO Robert Burke— who describes Do’s work as “tailored with some Asian and Japanese influence, akin to Calvin Klein under Francisco Costa and modern, minimal clothes that can be feminine, show skin and be edgy at the same time”—knows the pressure Do was under at Lang.
“God help the designer that comes in after the namesake. Even though there have been several in this case, [names such as Hood by Air‘s Shayne Oliver and husband-and-wife duo Michael and Nicole Colovos have held the role] Helmut was a genius, and the bar was set really high for Do as his traction was already there as a designer. This Helmut Lang didn’t have the sophistication and refinement of his own line. It felt very contemporary,” said Burke in an interview.
The fashion executive also pointed out that the only thing that closely resembled Do’s Paris debut with the Banana Republic sampling was Isaac Mizrahi combining his namesake designer collection and his styles for Target in a show held at Cipriani in 2004.
Chief development officer, Tomorrow, and president of Tomorrow Projects, Julie Gilhart also sees Do—a Phoebe Philo-era Celine alum, a 2014 LVMH Graduate Prize recipient, and finalist for the 2020 LVMH Prize for Young Designer—having enormous potential. The fashion and retail veteran spoke to FashionNetwork.com over email.
“There was a large amount of hype around Peter’s debut for Helmut Lang, and honestly, I don’t think ‘we’ managed our expectations. He did a show and then a showroom. The showroom had great clothes priced appropriately in a very on-trend style. He did an excellent job for a first collection,” she proffered, noting Do’s business acumen is sharp.
“He was very smart in developing his business with high-end specialty stores versus big store retailers globally and cultivated relationships with stores with close connections to all their customers. Peter was able to develop his brand based on his creative vision, take in all the customer information he received, and develop from his initial store partners. Also, his collections have a sense of being on-trend but never trendy, so the appeal is wide,” she continued.
According to Gilhart, the designer accepted the Banana Republic collaboration before the Helmut Lang gig was announced in May 2023. Thus, he may have had a longer runway to prepare his Lang debut. She proposes time will correct the lackluster reaction to the latter.
“He already has a refined vision here for his namesake collection. Helmut Lang is a ‘re-start-up.’ It needs time to develop,” she added.
For Meena Anvary, head of marketing at Banana Republic, Do was a natural partner to interpret the iconic Gap Inc.-owned American sportswear brand currently positioning itself as a “premium lifestyle brand,” according to the executive.
“We are looking to connect with our customers in an authentic way, meeting them where they are. Culture and self-expression are redefined today. It’s not about brands dictating how people should dress; it’s about inspiring them to make it their own. Peter Do is an ideal partner to help us offer a collection of premium pieces rooted in unexpected tailoring and utility designs,” she told FashionNetwork.com over email.
The retailer has collaborated with various designers, including Charles Harbison, Greg Lauren, the late L’Wren Scott, Trina Turk Timo Weiland, Roland Mouret, Prep Curry, Milly designer Michelle Smith, and Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant.
“Since our relaunch, we have been intentional about the approach to being part of the fashion conversation, including finding the right partners who share our values. With Peter Do, a brand that grew organically on social and is so connected to his audience, it was a natural fit from the beginning. The intersection of our heritage and Peter’s unique design sensibility creates a fresh look for our customers. This is our take on effortless dressing for today’s customers,” she continued.
So far, the response has encouraged a broad audience.
“The Banana Republic partnership was taking Peter Do sensibility and making it approachable and aspiration from a silhouette and design standpoint; it’s sophisticated designer wear at a great price,” said Burke.
Why one brand that Do put his stamp on for Spring 2024 seemed to hit the mark while the other stalled is anyone’s guess. Timing, budgets (undoubtedly significant in the Banana Republic’s case), and how much freedom the brand gives the designer are all factors. Do has been pegged as the great hope to get Lang back on track. Fortunately, he is probably already hard at work on the next collection.
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