The Peter Pilotto design duo's four-day trip to L.A. has already paid off.
The designers (the label is designed by Peter Pilotto and Christopher de Vos) had a packed schedule, with trunk shows at Elyse Walker in the Pacific Palisades, Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, and a dinner hosted by L.A. jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth at her West Hollywood store. (Neuwirth is a fan of the designers' kaleidoscopic, digitally printed looks, which suit her organic-looking jewelry.)
Pilotto and De Vos met while studying in 2000 at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium. Established in London in 2007, their label is sold in 50 countries, and has been worn by a number of celebs, including Emily Blunt and Diane Kruger.
But many people in the United States may recognize the name from the designers' 2014 collection for Target, a riot of color and digital print that was also available at Net-a-porter, where it was the site's fastest selling collaboration in history.
"For brand awareness, it was great," De Vos said over coffee at Neiman Marcus. "It also really helped us mature our vision as designers."
"That was the motivation, to try new categories such as swimwear, for example," Pilotto said. "And with the team at Target, it felt so effortless."
While Peter Pilotto was one of the first labels to gain attention for working with digital prints (and helping the trend of colorful, engineered-looking patterns to explode in fashion), now the designers are trying to move beyond them, introducing more separates (lace-trimmed blouses and skirts, for example), knitwear and outerwear. The spring 2015 runway collection has no prints at all, but achieved the colorful, graphic Peter Pilotto look using high definition jacquards, laces and Perspex appliques.
"For us, expressing texture is important," De Vos says. "Nowadays people want to feel and touch things. And how many times have we seen copies of our prints? They are hard to protect. We don't want to alienate our old customers, but we also want to reach new customers."
The fall 2015 collection, a whimsical wonderland of teddy bear fur, dense embroidery and candy-like embellishments, was inspired in part by vintage board games.
"The idea was to elevate the craft beyond the prints, and find new techniques," says Pilotto. "We were doing research of different artists, and realized that board games are really quite amazing to look at. Everyone played with them as children and you forget how much art went into them. A lot of them are beautifully painted. In this whole digital era, it was nice to go back to these non-digital games."
(Among the designers' own childhood favorites are Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit.)
"A lot of the compositions are inspired by tracks. We looked at military references, too, for the buttons, but we wanted them to look more like counters in a game. It was important not to have the references look too literal," De Vos says.
The designers have a staff of 40 at their East London studio, and until recently were self-funded. Last month, they scored a minority investment from MH Luxe and Megha Mittal, chairman and managing director of Escada.
They plan to use the money to branch into new categories, specifically accessories, and to launch e-commerce. But, they insist, there is no future for them at Escada. "There's no overlap. Megha has invested in several brands," De Vos says.