We met with Peter Davis at the Milk Studios in New York City during the fashion month of September. Peter, who grew up at the Upper East Side, not far from Park Avenue never aimed to be a writer. Writing for Vogue in his teen years was fun, but not mind blowing at the time. Today he is an Editor-At-Large of Paper Magazine and a well-known and liked personality. Nevertheless, his impeccable style and a very approachable and down to earth personality is what made us fall even more in love with a trend-setter and a true child of Manhattan.
J: You were born in Manhattan, did you live here your whole life?
PD: I was born and raised in Manhattan. I’ve lived in NYC my whole life, though for a long time I was bi-coastal and had places in New York and Los Angeles.
J: Your mother Senga Mortimer was a magazine editor who worked closely with Anna Wintour. Is that what started your interest in writing?
PD: I never got to work with my mother. I did write for Vogue right after college but no one at Condé Nast knew that Senga Mortimer was my mother as we have different last names. I studied painting in college – I’ve never taken a writing class. My whole career in media was by accident.
J: How did you find Paper magazine or did it find you?
PD: I was an intern at Paper when I was a teenager. I used to read the magazine to find out what was going on downtown. The second I met Kim (Hastreiter) and David (Hershovits), Paper’s founders, I knew I wanted to work with them. They are beyond cool.
J: What was your experience like as an intern for Paper Magazine?
PD: I did everything at Paper from styling shoots to running errands to modeling in stuff. One time Kim needed 1970s style black light velvet posters for a shoot with Naomi Campbell and I found them in an hour. She was pretty impressed. Kim and David are the hipster Jewish parents I never had and always wanted.
J: From our conversation in New York you told us a story how your first article was typed with a typewriter using two fingers what was your reaction when you knew it will be published in Vogue?
PD: I still can’t type. I taught myself to type quickly with two fingers by IM-ing on AOL back in the day. I did an article on the resurgence of Birkenstocks for Vogue and hand wrote the whole thing on a legal pad and then had the receptionist at The Andy Warhol Foundation, where I worked at the time, type it out on a computer. I do type now and I’m pretty fast for only using two fingers.
J: Let’s talk fashion. You are such a trendsetter. Tell us about your style and how it evolved over the years?
PD: I’ve always dressed the same- a combination of my UES preppy roots with a little punk rock and street wear. One constant is that I’ve been buying stuff at Supreme, the seminal skate shop, since it opened. I met Supreme’s founder James Jebbia when he had an amazing store called Union before he started Supreme. I am an unofficial Supreme archivist as I have a massive collection.
J: Do you have a stylist?
PD: Nope. I’ve never had a stylist.
J: Have you attended Men’s Fashion week this year in New York? Any favorite new designers who caught your eye?
PD: I went to a bunch of menswear shows. I always like Michael Bastian– he makes the best blazers that fit as if they were from a tailor in London. I also like Ovadia & Sons, the new swimwear like Thorsun (I wore their suits all summer) and was blown away by Eponymous, which not only had amazing clothes but also the best casting and styling of any show I saw this season.
J: Your favorite moment during New York Fashion Week Spring/ Summer 2016 ?
PD: I think Marc Jacobs always steals the season and his show at the Ziegfield Theater just proved again that he is the most interesting designer showing in America.
J: Are there any designers you are loyal to?
PD: I dress very uniform. I only wear Thom Browne button downs (a pricey preference on my part) for example. I like jackets by Michael Bastian, especially his black tie stuff. Most of my suits are from my tailor Timothy Everest in London. I used to be very loyal to Martin Margiela but now I think the brand has changed since the mysterious designer has left the house. And I was obsessed with Helmut Lang when he was designing- I still have stuff he made in 1999.
J: What is a big fashion “no-no” for guys in your opinion?
PD: I’m not a big fan of labels on anything, with the exception of Supreme as I love their red box Barbara Kruger-esque logo. I also have never worn sandals (except at the beach) or a speedo.
J: On top of being super stylish, you are a huge fan of art. What are some of your favorite art works that you own or admire?
PD: My favorite artist is Cindy Sherman. I have three of her photographs. I collect a lot of street art: Neckface, Shepard Fairey, Skullphone and Baron Von Fancy, to name a few. I love the pictures my pal Donald Robertson has done of me, especially when he painted me on a pizza carton, which was in the window of Bergdorf Goodman. I also like an amazing Australian artist I met at a wedding in London called Billy Bob Coulthurst – he is doing my portrait now and is definitely one to watch. And I collect photography – I have stuff by Bruce Gilden, Larry Clark, William Klein, Danny Lyon, Garry Winogrand... I also have two pretty graphic prints by Terry Richardson that I hung in a discrete spot of my guest bathroom.
J: Do you go to Miami for Art Basel?
PD: I’ve gone a few years – it really has become more about the parties than the art. But I am obsessed with Wynwood where all the street art is happening. I really want a Maya Hayuk.
J: Is Fashion an Art in your opinion?
PD: Fashion can be artistic – in the case of designers like Ashish in London who is quite over-the-top. But fashion to me is most exciting as it reflects the current cultural climate of the world at that very moment.
J: What’s your opinion on street style photographers?
PD: I love the work of Tommy Ton – he has such a great eye for detail. And the BFA photographers really do the best job of documenting Fashion Week from the front row to backstage to the runway to street style.
J: Let’s talk about #BreakTheInternet bare bottom issue. Can you share your experience working with Kim on this cover? Did you get a selfie with Kim?
PD: I didn’t get to work on the Kim cover – that was all Drew Elliot who has brought Paper into a new era. I was at The Daily when the KK cover happened but I was one of the first to post it on Facebook. Then Facebook contacted me as they found it explicit but it had been shared so many times and commented on that they let it slide. I did meet Kim at Paper’s dinner for her in Miami but I am not one to snap selfies, with or without celebrities.
J: What is next for Peter Davis?
PD: I am working on a book – nonfiction – it will take me 6 to 9 months to finish so hopefully by summer 2016 I will deserve a big vacation.
J: That is amazing. Looking forward to read it. What would you wish to aspiring writers?
PD: I think now is the best time to be a writer because you can self publish your work on the internet – and then be discovered. When I had my own magazine – SCENE – I found so many talented writers and photographers online.
J: And finally, you and I have very close birthdays. I was born on December 11th and you on December 12th. Tell our readers do Sagittarius rule the world?
PD: I am a total Sag. I am restless and can never be in one place for too long and I always have to be around a lot of people. I can be fickle but I am loyal to a fault. And yes, Sag definitely rules the world. I have the same birthday as Frank Sinatra who I guess is my celebrity spirit animal.
Text Juliet Belkin