Words: Zoe Whitfield
All clothing: Peir Wu
“I worked for the Raf Simons’ team at an interesting time in the brand’s evolution,” Peir Wu tells me via email. “Raf was evolving the brand’s aesthetic – this time period lead him to establish the hyper-futuristic vibe people now know him for – and it was an incredible experience to work there and be a part of that process.”
A Central Saint Martins graduate – studying on both the BA and MA courses, the latter under the late Louise Wilson – Wu would set up a menswear label under her own moniker in 2011, however it was during her time at the acclaimed institution that she wound up at the designer’s Antwerp studio.
“What stayed with me after all these years,” she continues, “was that even though they were a small team, they achieved a lot together because they were open minded and up front with their opinions. To this day I use this in my own practice and strive to creatively collaborate outside of a silo.”
Her own label in turn boasts an aesthetic self determined as ‘casual futurism’. “I think futurism isn’t about tacky tech but rather an idea that operates on an emotional or spiritual realm and is more human than we imagine,” she offers of her take on the prescribed philosophy. “Seeing possibilities in the every day, garnering potential in transforming them into something new and exciting – that’s what futurism means to me.”
In cloth form this translates as seemingly gender-neutral dress (she believes that a modern spirit embodies both masculine and feminine qualities, featured a woman in the SS15 look book and wears her own designs, asserting that “it doesn’t read as masculine”), with pieces of a minimalist nature and a controlled colour palette the backbone of each season.
“Designing every day solutions for the modern man is like trying to find creativity in what seems obvious, but designing beautiful, unpretentious and trans-seasonal clothing for men is something I feel is often overlooked,” she claims of her process.
‘Think Patagonia meets Ermenegildo Zegna – Spring/Summer 2016 is a culmination and refinement of the designer’s timeless point of view’ read the press notes that accompany the new collection, shot here for PYLOT.
“I think it’s much more ‘inclusive’ in spirit,” Peir recognises of the work. “My designs have always been very open ended – I never create showpieces for the sake of making a ‘runway statement’. It’s true however that the travel series is not as involved as some of my ‘artisanal’ pieces, which are sometimes made of rare deadstock fabrics and are often finished by hand.”
The new collection then, is perhaps a more accessible offering than previous efforts: the tunic style layering and decadently misplaced appliqué overshadowed instead by easy to read ‘suits’ of shorts and collarless jackets and sports inspired cotton tees; shot outdoors, the look book similarly adds a softer element to proceedings.
Presented as a three part series, the collection references the multiple scenes that constitute a customer’s lifestyle, while are simultaneously a nod to Wu’s own favoured past times. “One is inspired by my passion for rock climbing, another explores the cult athleticism in free running, and the last part is all about those who commute in the city by bike,” she explains. “A three part series made sense for the campaign in order to show off the clothes being worn in different moments of urban life by its real participants.”
Revisiting her time at CSM, spent at the original campus on Charing Cross Road, she remembers: ‘It was a ratty old building and although we didn’t have a lot of facilities available to us, it was full of soul and an environment that pushed us to all be very hands on and resourceful. The most important lesson Louise Wilson taught me is that there is absolutely no formula and no one right way of doing things. She hated formalities and bureaucracy, there was only radical honesty in her presence. This was also pre-smart phones and social media…”
Graduating alongside the likes of Shaun Samson, Marques’Almeida and Phoebe English, I ask which contemporary designers Wu is a fan of. “I’m obsessed with Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei,” instead comes the reply. “Although he had his favourite materials like concrete, glass and steel, he exercises a fluid style and believes that architecture must first be informed by locality and its purpose in order to fit in culturally with its surroundings,” she recalls of the 98 year old; the Fragrant Hill Hotel in Beijing is her favourite building of his.
Part of a club that includes Lou Dalton, Grace Wales Bonner and Astrid Andersen, she confirms that as a woman producing menswear research is her everything; “I ask men A LOT of questions any chance I get, different kinds of men, men that I meet in transit. I observe and remain objective. I enjoy problem solving – my SS16 collection was about trying to decipher the absolute essentials in a modern man’s wardrobe – and it enables me to find the perfect balance between function and aesthetic.”
Peir Wu was born in Singapore and lives in London, presents in Paris and designs in Hackney. Peir Wu is creating casual futurism. Find her on Tumblr, Instagram, and peirwu.com
Photography: Jackson Bowley
Styling: Sofia Lai
Make up: Sasha O’Neill using Bobbi Brown makeup
Hair: Shaun Birmingham using Label.M
Photography assistants: Henry Gorse
Styling assistant: Izzy Whiteley
Model: Jonjo @ AMCK