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Designer Peter Som on Passion, Inspiration … and Pasta

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Maybe you have a couple of passions in life, or maybe you have many. Often in New York, it feels like people ask you what your “passion” is, and it feels like a polite way of asking, “Yeah, and what do you do?” In my twenties, I felt like I had to make sure my occupation was not just a passion, but the pinnacle of passion. Kind of like if you met your maker and she said: “You can stay on Earth if you live your passion.” And maybe I’m always overly dramatic about everything, but that’s actually the amount of pressure I’d put myself under when thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. It was one of the hardest things I had to define, because we are taught that so much of our identities are tied to our professions.

I knew two things: I did not want a nine-to-five job in the traditional sense, and I wanted an occupation that was creative and would stimulate and excite me on a daily basis. It didn’t help that the movie Office Space came out when I had graduated college, and scared the living bejesus out of me, thinking my life was going to be that. It seemed to lump anyone who has a traditional job into a cubical farm, which is just not true. But still, it made me think, and gave me motivation, albeit through fear. On a whim, and through a good friend’s recommendation, I applied to work at Mademoiselle, and fell in love with the pace of a magazine and its multiple varying different points of view. There was the writing, the film, the fashion and the introduction to the world of beauty for me that would later turn into my career.

Later on, working at Harper’s Bazaar, I was bitten by the world of fashion. I loved everything about it: the energy, the attention to detail, the fantastic world that entrances you, taking you from wherever you may feel you don’t want to be, to anywhere you want, and just feeling … shiny and new. I mean, we all have our “dressy jeans,” our “lazy jeans,” our “meh, I don’t care jeans”; they’re never just jeans. They always mean something more.

And that’s just what Peter Som’s designs do when I see them. We’ve become good friends, and his fashion week shows can transport you from New York to the French Riviera in the blink of an eye. But in getting to know Peter, I learned a lot: He knows everything about beauty, I know some things about fashion, and the two of us are obsessed with food. His baking and pasta skills may challenge some of the most major chefs out there, and that’s what’s so great about him: He just embraces life and loves it all.

Francesco: What inspires you as you prepare a collection? Traveling? Family? Does that vacillate?

Peter: Inspiration comes from everywhere for me—movies, art, theater, cities I’ve traveled to, and especially New York!

Francesco: In terms of putting together your NY fashion show—how do you determine what the overall “look” will be in terms of hair and makeup with your designs? Do you make mood boards?

Peter: Everything starts from the sketching—this is the beginning of not only the clothes but of the mood I want to convey. From that point on everyone on the team works together to see that the look is true to my vision but also feels fresh and interesting. It’s truly a collaborative process.

Francesco: We both are food aficionados, but you take it one step further than me, because you actually cook and bake and make your own pasta! When did you get the cooking bug, and what's your favorite dish?

Peter: I’ve always loved cooking—my mom and sister love to cook so I grew up with that love as well. I have fond memories of my sister teaching me how to flip crepes perfectly so they don’t land on the stove or the floor.

Francesco: How do you think the look of what beauty means has changed in the world of fashion since you started in fashion? How has it changed in terms of the models and the design of clothing?

Peter: Beauty is individual. Certain trends in what is “pretty” come and go, but you can never go wrong with a fresh, healthy and happy look.

Francesco: What is your ultimate fantasy for what true beauty means? Is there anyone that you can think of that embodies this?

Peter: True beauty comes from within—the old saying is true!



More from interviews by Francesco Clark:

Maggie Rizer
Rosie O'Donnell
Jeanine Lobell
Nate Berkus

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