Dutch designer Peet Dullaert has been dancing around couture week for several seasons with his independent presentations. But this season, he landed on the official calendar as an invited guest.
“I cried when they said that we were on the schedule, I really couldn’t believe it,” he told WWD in his gilded office in Paris’ 8th district.
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Despite the initial shock, the 34-year-old designer was calm, cool and collected just days before his official couture debut inside Paris’ National Archives. Sofia Coppola shot there for “Marie Antoinette,” but Dullaert will be the first designer to grace the halls for a fashion show.
It took a persistent ask to get the “yes,” but it’s his favorite building in Paris and he didn’t want to settle for anything less. “I’m a really emotional person, but I also know exactly what I want,” he said.
After graduating from university in the Netherlands, rather than cut his teeth under other designers, Dullaert established his own house. He was just 23.
The young designer was drawn to Paris over London precisely for its reverence for tradition. “Paris, regardless of whatever industry you look at, they have always tried to advance with what is happening in the world, but with caution and always with an understanding that it could be countered,” he said. “In terms of moving fashion forward, it’s really an amazing place to be because people say, ‘We still do it this way.’”
Once he arrived things unfolded like a movie plot: Dullaert struck up a friendship with Pierre Bergé, by way of Baroness Hélène de Ludinghausen, the longtime directrice of Yves Saint Laurent couture. The young Dullaert had written her a letter after seeing her in a documentary. Weeks later he found himself having coffee with Bergé among the collector’s famous artworks.
He doesn’t discuss the friendship much, he said, but those conversations shaped not only his philosophy on design but ultimately, his label.
“Because that for me is the reality of fashion. It’s not that elevated picture of what sometimes we perceive as couture,” he said of surrounding oneself with art, instead of keeping it at arms’ length in a museum. The message was about Bergé’s appreciation of creation and beauty. “It made me feel less scared.”
Bergé told him that he should not start a label unless he truly had something to say, and, being the time of boxy branded T-shirts on runways, Dullaert felt like he could approach design with a personal touch.
“For me, fashion is more about connection, psychology and the way you feel about things. It’s really emotional in that sense. I love it that way, because it does something to us that we cannot always clarify, like a translation of things. That’s what I adore,” he said.
For his debut couture collection, titled “Couture Unfolds,” he will present 30 “simple” looks, if deceptively so. He references an old quote attributed to Vivienne Westwood: “When comfort comes in, fashion goes out.”
“I don’t agree with that at all. For me, it’s absolutely the reverse,” he said. His work is about working with the body — not against it with corsets, or distracting from it with crystals and beads.
“If clothes look strange when they’re on a hanger, usually they’re really good clothes, because they’re about the body,” he said.
Ahead of the show, he says his clients and friends are at the core of the looks he will present. “It’s about people who inspire me. The creation is very organic. It’s about time, and about the people who surround you.”
No machines allowed — every stitch is sewn by hand. “I don’t sketch — ever. We drape, and we don’t make a mood board — ever. I don’t want to be inspired by something another brand did a few seasons ago,” he said. “It’s about the people I meet that inspire me. It’s super individual; I think that’s one of the most exciting things about it.”
He also cites inspirations from nature — if not pinned to a mood board, they’re always top of mind. He pulls up memories of a trip to Egypt and his love of the ocean as inspirations.
Dullaert makes it part of his mission to work with sustainable materials, and has a long-standing relationship with Tencel Luxe, which he is incorporating into this collection alongside more traditional textiles like silk.
“I’ve always been very quiet and I will always be very quiet because I don’t really feel that you need to be a public figure or make yourself a face to do what you do, otherwise I could not have done this for 11 years, in my own way,” he said. “It’s never about me. It’s the people you work with that make the magic together.”
Still, Dullaert will take the next step and open his first store in Paris later this year.
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