Peter Davis is the voice of today’s New York; he is one of the most colorful figures of this era. Above all, he is a writer who is in love with street art and cotton candy!
He was born and raised in New York. Instead of keeping up with New York City’s high-society luxurious lifestyle, which is customary, he followed a different path. A young bohemian, punk kid in the 90s and onwards, he kept his finger on the pulse of New York’s art, design and fashion scene. His different life vision is what granted us today’s Peter Davis.
First of all, we’d like to learn more about who Peter Davis is, besides being a writer and art lover…
I grew up in Manhattan – on the Upper East Side. I went to an all-boy school where I wore a coat and tie from the first grade on. But it was still New York and I’d skateboard downtown and that’s where I started to buy Paper magazine. I got an internship there one summer and have never really left even when I was launching my own magazine. Paper is like family. Right away, Kim Hastreiter and David Hershkovits, the brilliant founders, became the hip, downtown Jewish parents I always wanted but never had.
Can you tell us what New York means to you?
New York is my world. I’ve always had an apartment in New York. Even when I rented places – four of them – all over Los Angeles, I always kept my apartment in New York. I travel a lot for work and because I truly want to see as much of the entire planet as I can, but New York is home.
You studied painting in college. What was the actual reason that led you to be a writer?
I don’t know how to type. I never took a writing class in college. I went to Bennington to study painting. My plan was to make art and go to NYU grad school for film. A month after graduation, I scored a job for The Andy Warhol Foundation. Kim and Paper took me to Paris for Fashion Week. We stayed in Fred Hughes’ apartment on the fancy Rue Cherche-Midi. It had been Warhol’s apartment back in the day. I kept a Paris journal – Margiela’s underground show, Chanel, and all the parties and clubs. Amy Astley, now the Editor in Chief of Architectural Digest, was at Vogue and called me. I met Anna Wintour and wrote about youthquakers for Vogue. I had a monthly column for Paper too. I was the first to write about a lot of people who are now hugely successful like David Blaine who is my buddy and lived on my block then. I’ve written for pretty much every magazine and newspaper – The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal, Tatler – you name it.
Can you tell us about your writing process? What excites you and what blocks you?
Like most writers, I procrastinate. I always write at the last minute. It doesn’t make sense, but I always meet deadlines.
You are passionate about collecting artwork. Do you also do artwork yourself?
I haven’t painted since college. My paintings were big and toxic to make so I need a real studio and masks and vents. When I’m an old man, I plan to live part time in Paris and paint again. I want hang out with the cool French kids the way Serge Gainsbourg did.
Has anything you’ve seen recently changed your views on art or design?
I live in Williamsburg and constantly shoot and Snapchat street art on my iPhone. I grew up with graffiti, which has evolved into street art. The streets of Brooklyn – Bushwick, BedStuy and Williamsburg – are the new galleries. I recently saw amazing street art in Berlin. And L.A. is booming with art everywhere the way New York did in the 80s with Basquiat, Clemente, Schnabel and Warhol.
Downtown Manhattan has been the main spot of street culture of New York City. In recent years, this spot has been replaced with Brooklyn..
I moved from Tribeca to Williamsburg and I will never leave Brooklyn. The creative class jumped the river and now lives in Brooklyn. Vice is a few blocks from me as well as the many of the best restaurants in the city. Williamsburg is as if Manhattan and Los Angeles had a baby. I live on the river. You can see the sky everywhere.
Paper Magazine is one of the most distinguished New York-based publications, mainly focusing on fashion, life-style and pop culture. How would Peter Davis describe Paper?
Paper has remained indie and true to it’s downtown roots. It’s a style bible. Without Paper, I wouldn’t have ever started a magazine of my own or ever published a word.
Since we’re going through a digital age, what do you think makes a printed magazine successful?
Print has to be special. Collectible. Magazines should be like books – something to covet. Out of Order is an example of a great magazine that you don’t ever want to toss out.
What do you think about today’s fashion industry?
Fashion is by nature a fickle world. Things change fast. The digital world and social media have forced change in awesome ways – everyone is part of the game now. Designers are changing too. Tom Ford keeps switching things up the way he shows from movies to fancy dinners to the new see it now/buy it now mission that Burberry started. Fashion is no longer an exclusive club of editors and buyers at the shows – anyone with a social media account can join.
“When I’m an old man, I plan to live part time in Paris and paint again. I want to hang out with the cool French kids the way Serge Gainsbourg did.”
Who are your favorite designers?
I was a huge Martin Margiela fan and customer until he vanished – he’s the Willy Wonka of fashion except that he’s never revealed himself. Marc Jacobs is the most interesting American designer in my book – he always challenges what people see as “fashion.” But the true fashion visionaries show in Europe – Karl Lagerfeld is deservedly a living icon. I love the new crew coming out of Paris – Demna Gvasalia is exciting to watch.
You and Supreme are inseparable. Can you tell us – why Supreme and Peter Davis?
I was a skater and gone to Supreme since it opened. James Jebbia who founded the brand is a buddy of mine. His business model – everything sells out in a day and they never remake anything – is the most successful business plan in fashion. And he loves and understands art. I have Supreme artist decks by Larry Clark, Urs Fisher, Dash Snow and more. I love the decks the most. I have them all over my walls. The clothes are great too – Supreme is the only logo I will wear.
I’m launching a digital publication in 2017. An appazine. It’s a completely interactive visual experience. That’s all I can say – for now.