“I thought I was going to piss myself,” says Peter Jensen, thinking back to a highly comedic moment on a tarmac in Nuuk, Greenland. “It was one of those situations where, by some bizarre coincidence, half the people boarding the flight had something wrong with their legs. All these people were being wheeled through a snowstorm and they were all falling over. People were really looking at me in a weird way. I am very childish, I suppose, but I can’t help but find awkward situations funny.” While the designer’s twisted sense of humor usually seeps into his collections, he doubts this instance will ever make it down the runway. “I think I’d get in a lot of trouble, everyone is so PC.”
Jensen also has a thing for off-color muses—no Angelina Jolie here. Iconic outsider Sissy Spacek and figure-skating brutesse Tonya Harding have inspired previous collections, the Harding collection even shown in an ice-skating rink by competitive skaters. “I don’t take myself too seriously,” he says. “You would never find me saying I want to define the new white. It just doesn’t come natural to me.”
Known for his animated colors, folksy sartorial patterns and childlike finery, Jensen has been operating out of London’s East End for the past decade, showing at London Fashion Week while presenting the odd collection in an off-the-beaten-path location; mostly recently he showed a resort collection in Denmark. Last season, however, he showed in New York’s warehouse-like Milk Studios and will present there again in a few days. He’s also collaborating with U.S. retailer Urban Outfitters on a collection to launch next month.
Of this transatlantic straddling, he says, “Denmark is very much built on a society where everybody is equal. You have meetings about everything. ‘Oh, Susanna has her period today so we all have to have a meeting about it because she feels really horrible.’ You can never work like that. But when I first came to do my MA at Central Saint Martins in London, it was like opening up a new world to me. We were allowed to have ambition, like I’m sure Americans learn from a very young age.”
For being so close to show time, he and his studio are remarkably calm. Scandinavian-looking staffers organize patterns and work quietly on the collection. Inspiration pieces hang around his lofty office, but he won’t give away his new muse, only to say she’s obscure. “She did some quite good films in the ’70s, which I think she is very famous for. And she is quite bizarre looking—special,” he says politely.
Starlets who have donned the label include Dakota Fanning in her recent, coming-of-age years and The Cardigans’s lead singer, Nina Persson. As for whom he’d like to see his stuff on, “Drew Barrymore, she’s quite nice.” But mostly Jensen remains unaffected by the idea of his name growing. “It’ll mean more to do, but it’s all quite exciting, I suppose.” On my way out, he offers me licorice candy for the trip home.