The Influentials
David Peck

Transplanted New York designer determined to make Houston a true fashion center

Transplanted NY designer determined to make Houston a fashion center

The Influentials David Peck November 2013
Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com

A family emergency brought David Peck to Houston four years ago, but from a business perspective, it's the best thing that happened to him. Peck has crafted a burgeoning fashion design and manufacturing business that sells his collection in 50 stores across the United States and online. 

"There are definitely challenges from not being close to the industry (in New York), but there have also been great opportunities," Peck says. "We have been given the freedom to think outside the box. All of the challenges that we have had have also been opportunities to rethink the way the business is run. And in the end, it's made a stronger business."

Peck, a Colorado native who moved from New York to the Bayou City when his wife's mother was stricken with cancer, has created a large design studio in the Upper Kirby District, where he makes and manufactures his line as well as the collections of such up-and-coming young Houston designers as Amir Taghi and Jonathan Blake. He employs full-time 25 workers at his sun-splashed design studio and 20 additional contract workers who sew from home.

"It helps when you're doing an evening gown or whatever, for the woman to know it's being made back here," he says. "It gives you a sense of security that it can be fixed. It doesn't need to be sent off back to New York or Paris or China or wherever it was made because it was wrong. We can fix whatever issues there are here."

Peck also heads up Houston Designed, a Greater Houston Partnership task force that is working to make Houston more attractive as a fashion design and manufacturing center. He believes the city has all the ingredients — cheaper costs, booming economy, creative people — to have a greater national and international fashion presence.

"Design craves community and the one thing we're missing is a centralized place. And that can happen. The medical center made it happen, downtown is revitalizing itself. If we can get developers on board and the people with passion and interest and money it can happen," he says.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Knowing that I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing.

What is your idea of misery?

Knowing that I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

What is your pet peeve?

Lateness.

What is your chief characteristic?

Optimism.

What is the best advice you ever received?

Surround yourself with people you can trust.

What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?

That I have a previous life as a musician —  in cello performance. 

How does that relate to fashion?

The discipline of being a musician has really informed the way I approach design. As a musician you really have to set aside a certain amount of time and be really regimented and you do it every single day. I don't know that everyone always approaches design with the same rigor, so I think that 's helped me.

If you could be someone else, who would you be?

I think that I would be Billy Wilder because he was able to communicate in a visual medium and tell fantastic stories.

If you were going to have a dinner party, who would you invite, live or dead?

Jane Austen, Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey. Alfred Hitchcock —  it would be really weird dinner party. And Susan B. Anthony. 

You mentioned Hitchcock and Billy Wilder. Some of your collections have been influenced by classic movies.

Especially (the) fall (collection) — three of my favorite Gregory Peck films, actually, To Kill a Mockingbird, Gentleman's Agreement and Roman Holiday. I try to create clothes that are classic but still feel like now. So if you pull them out of your wardrobe in 10 years, hopefully you aren't embarrassed. So many of those films have stood the test of time. The issues they portray are just as relevant as the issues we deal with now. And I hope that comes through in the clothing and the inspiration to tell the story through clothes.

What celebrity would you like to dress?

Gwyneth Paltrow. I've been in love with Gwyneth since high school, ever since Shakespeare in Love. I know she gets criticized as "Superwoman" or "Supermom," but I like the way she approaches everything with the idea of doing it well. I'm a perfectionist, so I can value that.

What does it mean to be a Houstonian?

I think to be a Houstonian is to straddle the line between understanding tradition and the way things are done and thinking outside the box. I think there's a really nice juxtaposition here between people who are the Old Guard and the radical new way of thinking. Having those two side by side is something that Houston does really, really well and that's why we are probably good at business. There are always new ideas but there's also the wisdom of people who have done business well to balance that out. You think of River Oaks and Montrose, they're side by side but there so completely different yet they exist together. It's a really weird juxtaposition, but it works. 

What have you most learned about yourself?

I have learned that it doesn't matter what I'm doing as long as I do it with the right intention, that makes me happy.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Invest. I would probably take a little bit of it and stabilize our business and then I would put the rest in reliable but safe mutual funds so that it lasts. I wouldn't want to spend it all at once. One thing that I have learned is that money disappears really, really quickly, so you have to careful about using it.

What does it mean to show at Fashion Houston?

For me, it's an opportunity to show that Houston is able to produce design that hopefully can be perceived on the same level as international fashion weeks in New York and Paris, that it's possible to do that level and quality of work here.

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