Style: Petra Von Kant
Petra Von Kant is the protagonist of the classic film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, with the same name, and appropriately the inspiration for a contemporary collection of vintage curated by Alexes Bowyer and Olivia La Roche. A heroine unabashed in her love for avant- garde couture is rightly a muse for vintage with an editorial sensibility. The pair’s elevated approach to vintage styling brings life to second hand goods in unexpected ways. Their selections are focused on quality materials, unique silhouettes and imaginative styling. Each piece is recontextualized for the modern eye.
What draws us to Olivia and Alexes’s vision for vintage is their fearless approach to styling. Color, texture and material are always considered, and the duo is consistently bold and experimental in their presentation. As strong, confident women they are not afraid to express themselves through what they are wearing and are constantly breathing new life into each piece they collect.
Alexes and Olivia kindly shared their influences both personal and for Petra Von Kant, the importance of self-care and the one thing they could not live without. The creative spark between these two is real and they have offered thoughtful notes we can all learn from ahead.
If a stranger stumbled across the Petra Von Kant IG today, what’s something they would be surprised to know?
Olivia: That we met in an Art History class in college, and I still remember what Alexes was wearing - A Gold leather skirt and a faux shearling coat that reminded me of a stuffed animal I really loved as a child. Little did she know, I decided right then we were going to know each other for a long time.
Alexes: Ha! I used to call that jacket my “dog bed”. I remember that we talked about our shared preference for sitting in the front row. Looking back it makes sense that this mentality would lead us to being business partners
What are some cultural touchstones you consider in shaping Petra Von Kant or your personal aesthetic— i.e.: what films, books, artists, places, etc., have been most influential in shaping you?
Olivia: Right now, I’m really inspired by a few films from the mid-late seventies; An Unmarried Woman, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Love Story. All iconic and urban. I like the muted palette of these films and that "bordering on ugly" thing the 70’s are so known for. I’m also really into documentaries about cults, Japanese designers in the 80’s and Juergen Teller’s almost pornographic food photography. Oh and I'm daydreaming about traveling around Eastern Europe. I spent some time there as a kid, and it's calling me back.
Alexes: Well, I think we are both really captivated by cinema. Our name is borrowed from a Rainer Werner Fassbinder film, and am definitely inspired and intrigued by the all female landscape he created in “ The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.” Personally, I always find myself returning to the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini, Agnes Varda, Michelangelo Antonioni and the art work of Cindy Sherman plays a major role in my vision of PvK. The time I’ve spent in Morocco has definitely enhanced my understanding of colors and the play between simplicity and detail and all the glamorous and smart Colombian women and men in my family are a continuous inspiration.
Do you think there is a time of day when you create your best work?
Olivia: We create our best work in several day spurts and often spend 48 -72 hours completely immersed in work. It becomes a lived creative experience. We wake up, have coffee, talk about what needs to be done and then dive in. It’s an amazing process. We spend it quiet and focused, working on the technical or financial side of things and then loud and expressive, working on the creative side. We take breaks, listen to music and chat big picture and long term goals the whole time.
Alexes: We’re both early risers who enjoy a long morning. This is when we catch up and share new ideas and set goals, short and long term. While we both get an early start, we have our fair share of late nights, both in the studio and out in the city! Life is full of inspiration and the best moments are the ones that feel the most serendipitous.
Do you have a personal ritual to share?
Olivia: Totally, we love going to The Baths. I am super diligent about self-care. So much so that it's completely second nature. It doesn't matter how exhausted I am; I always take care of my skin and teeth. Big time flosser over here. Also, I'm really into taking similarly diligent care of my things. I shine my shoes regularly, Brush my coats, Oil my leather goods, clean my makeup brushes... I'm my own valet and lady's maid.
Alexes: We share a ritual of going to the Japanese or Korean spa for a steam and sauna when we want to relax and reflect. Personally, I have adopted a lot of my mother’s rituals after watching her get ready in the morning. Skincare is essential and I wear sun- protection on my face most days. I often start my morning with a yoga class and find that it always helps me set a more positive mood for the day.
What does beauty mean to you? What captivates your attention?
Olivia: An element of the odd. Imperfection, creativity, resourcefulness. An individual's inner spark.
Alexes: I’m attracted to personality first and foremost. Anything can be beautiful on a good personality. Real beauty tells the truth.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?
Olivia: When I was a bit younger, I was very focused on knowing things, accruing information and building my repertoire to contribute to conversations and work scenarios. It was very external and in many ways stressful. I felt I had to be everywhere, know everyone and always be "on." I needed to do that, to educate myself and build expertise, engage in the community. Now, I'm much more focused on the concept of editing, and it's equal ability to create good work. I think less about when to speak more about when to listen. When to pull an item from our collection, what events I don't need to attend... less really can be more.
Alexes: There are so many valuable lessons to learn in life! Among the lessons I reflect on are first to go with your instincts. Tune into yourself and the world around you and stay true to the things that feed you. Be kind to others and be kind to yourself.
One thing you could not live without?
Alexes: The car stereo.
Ultimate style icons.
Olivia: Marie Antoinette, Joan Didion, Lucia Berlin, Edina Monsoon, Nina Simone, the entire cast of "Are You Being Served."
Alexes: David Bowie, Jane Birkin, Bianca Jagger, Vivienne Westwood, Patti Smith and Monica Vitti.