Peter Jensen has spent his fashion career leaving us in thrall to one woman after another as he builds his aesthetic each season around a different muse and her story. With Peter Jensen being celebrated in a dedicated exhibition at the Design Museum in Copenhagen this summer we wanted to talk to him about these muses and his relationship with them over the last 11 years.
Q. It looks like your first official muse in AW2001 was the rather tragic figure of Mary Miles Minter, the Anne of Green Gables star who puritan America turned on – did she start the tradition of Peter Jensen’s muses or were there unofficial muses before her?
A. She was the first as in the first one that got made up for a Peter Jensen women’s collection. But there were actually a few before her, because I started looking at these women that I like when I did my MA at St. Martins, so the very first one was really Marianne Faithfull.
Q. Take us through the evolution of a pair of muses like Candice-Marie and Keith (characters in Mike Leigh’s cult 1972 film Nuts in May) for Men’s and Women’s AW2008 – who came first? Or did you choose them as a couple?
Women’s and Men’s AW2008 Candice-Marie and Keith
A. As far as I remember it started up with someone else, though I actually have now completely forgotten who that was! But anyway I was watching “Nuts In May” and started thinking that it really made sense with what was going on with designs and fabrics.
I really liked the idea that it was a couple and that we showed the menswear as a catwalk show in Copenhagen fashion week styled by Jacob K and the Women’s collection (with a few Men’s looks) in London Fashion Week styled by Beth Fenton and with a set built by Andy Hillman. Andy’s set for the show was great, it was a big tent on stages that the models had to climb though.
Q. The Tonya collection was actually shown on ice – an amazing example of the influence of your muse over the final presentation of the collection. How did you make that happen?
A. We did a casting of professional ice skaters which was quite an overwhelment as we got a response from around 200 people and we only needed 20. We knew that there was an ice skating ring on Queensway, so it made perfect sense to use that as a sort of catwalk, if you like.
I was living in Hollywood when the whole Tonya Harding / Nancy Kerrigan thing happened and I think it stayed in my head, because it was a fascinating story and quite sad at the same time. I think this is the show that people really remember us doing, which is nice but it is not my favorite…
Womens SS2005 Tonya
Q. By the end of a design process is it hard to let your muse go or do you find you are usually ready for the next one?
A. No, I’m very happy to let them rest and forget about them for a bit. I like working with them for the time and let them tell the story. Then I hope it all makes sense when you as an outsider looks at the collection and think “yes I can see it, it makes sense.” Or maybe not – that is ok as well.
Q. Finally (we have to ask) your latest figure of inspiration must already be well established at the studio – any hints for us as to what to expect for S/S 2012’s muse?
A. Yes there is but I am not telling! I did that one time and people started to have their own way of thinking about this poor woman and then when they saw my work they might think “No, that is not right, that is not how she is or how it needs to look”. Sorry you will have to wait until September.
Peter in his studio 2011