Always Follow Your Instinct: A Conversation with Designer Peter Som

As a world-renowned fashion designer, CFDA nominee and member Peter Som has long been known for his contributions to the world of fashion, first as a designer for icon Bill Blass and later under his own name. His stunning pieces have graced the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle Magazine and have been famously worn by Michelle Obama. Bursting with creativity and an incomparable joie de vivre, he has recently turned his attention to the world of interiors, food and lifestyle, sharing his tips for living the good life on his website and through his very popular newsletter.

Photo by Gieves Anderson

Having achieved the level of success that he has enjoyed throughout his megawatt career, it would be completely understandable if Peter Som wanted to slow down or even take a break, but this designer has only added to his resume in recent years, delving deeper into his creative self to share his point of view on design for the home, travel and dining. As it turns out, his family and home life helped prep him for a lifelong pursuit of beauty in all forms. The designer explains, “My parents were both architects so design was a part of our lives—their love of design filtered into our home which was filled with pieces by mid-century masters like Le Corbusier, Mies Van der Rohe and Saarinen. My parents encouraged my interest in fashion and design—I was lucky that their creativity allowed me to explore mine. My Mom especially was supportive—the first dresses I ever designed and had made (by her dressmaker) were for her.” Growing up in a creative atmosphere, allowed him to discover his creative passion at a young age. “I was in fifth grade when I declared to my parents that I wanted to be a fashion designer. I had always loved drawing and I started out by drawing my mom, which eventually evolved into drawing women and what they wore. But it was after a family trip to Paris and opening up my older sisters Paris Vogues she brought back did I truly discover a world I wanted to be a part of.”

Photo by Gieves Anderson

In the over twenty years since he debuted his namesake collection in Bryant Park in 2001, he has become a household name, designing not only for his own lines but for Tommy Hilfiger, Anthroplogie, and Khol’s (all in his spare time). He also began to explore his love of home design with a luxury bedding collection for Sferra and a collaboration with Surya Rugs. Today he shares his keen eye for design of all kinds in his newsletter, on his website and through his social channels to the delight of his many followers. “I’ve always loved interiors and food—I really see them as an extension of my love of fashion —it’s about how you live your life. What you wear, to what you surround yourself with, to what you like to eat—it’s really about having the luxury to have choices on these things. My family was and is food obsessed—my Mom’s love of French cooking, my Grandma’s Chinese recipes—all these influences were are are so important in realizing how much I love food and cooking. In terms of sharing these passions—it was a very natural progression since I see them all related and rooted in creativity (though of course the medium and the techniques are different).”

Photo by Yumi Matsuo

Of course, his aesthetic is also on full display IRL in his own home as well. “I decorated my home over time, collecting and curating it with things that I loved regardless of theme or time period. I love strong clean shapes and natural textures and materials so that’s probably the underlying throughline. I decorate with a mix of old and new. My couch is a streamlined custom piece from Timothy Brown Studio, but it’s mixed with a vintage brutalist coffee table and a pair Edward Wormely chairs.” For those looking to add a unique beauty to their own home, Peter suggests vintage and antique shopping may hold the key. “Vintage and antiques are so vital to bring depth, character and patina to a home and oftentimes they those unique special pieces that really make a room pop. The easiest way to integrate vintage and antique pieces into your home decor is to start with smaller pieces like end tables, lamps, mirrors and stools—it’s really about trusting your gut on what you are drawn to and then going from there.”

Photo by Gieves Anderson

Trusting one’s gut is a part of his greater design philosophy in general. “My design philosophy is to always follow your instinct on what you love and trust in that instinct. Style is individual. I do think that philosophy translates to home—both clothing and one’s home are the most personal parts of one’s life. And very importantly—don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun.”

Though his life is filled with beauty, he does occasionally need a dose of inspiration. When that happens, Peter, naturally turns to Paris. “Paris is a city that I’ve travelled to for work and pleasure for years—I am constantly inspired by the mix of old and new, the colors used—for me a French grey—pale grey with a touch of warmth is one of the chicest colors for the home.” And when Paris is not an option, Pinterest is always there. “I’ve used Pinterest for many years for all mood boards with my design team and it’s truly changed the way one can search for images. But also, there’s truly nothing like a gorgeous coffee table book—seeing images on the page is always impactful and quite different that seeing it on a screen.”

Lucky for the rest of us, we can keep up with Peter’s creative life by simply clicking over to his website for a bit of inspiration any time.

5 Questions with Designer Peter Som

TLV: What are you feeling style wise for Spring?
PS: I’m a stripe lover—they’re a classic for a reason—but and for Spring I’m really excited to see new takes on stripes of every kind—diagonal, bold, multicolored, spliced. I can never get enough! I’m also loving natural textures—the idea of bringing the outside in—through natural materials, roughhewn surfaces, plants and prints.

TLV: Favorite travel destination?
PS: City: Paris / Beach: Holbox, Mexico

TLV: Favorite Spring meal/ or drink?
PS: I love a spring pea risotto —anything with that bright verdant green color makes me so happy. For drinks, a vodka gimlet is my go-to.

TLV: Favorite era for design?
PS: That’s so hard to choose! But if I had to choose I’d pick French 1940s-50s.

TLV: What is next on the horizon for you?
PS: In addition to my continuing collection exclusively at Rent the Runway, I’m working on a few projects in the home space, and of course continuing my cooking and culinary adventures.


Click here to shop Peter’s TLV Favorites

Images Courtesy of Peter Som / Profile Image by Gieves Anderson / Text by Liana Hayles Newton

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