From Country to

Interview By: Raphael Baker

Some people learn to be stylish. Some people are just born with it. Jason Christopher Peters was undoubtedly born with it. While his gift of design is quickly taking him to the top, life for him has never been easy. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Jason about his life, his career and what’s in store for the future.

Jason grew up in the small, country town of Chico, California. Surrounded by chickens and grass, he never anticipated that he’d one day become a designer. He and his two brothers were raised by his grandmother and grandfather on an income of about $15,000 per year. Although his beginnings were humble, life for him seemed quite normal. “I didn’t know we were poor. Yes, we had to boil water for baths, and me and my brothers took baths together. Everything seemed normal. We had breakfast and went off to school just like everyone else.”

Jason’s grandmother unknowingly ignited his passion for fashion. “She’d have me watch pageants, award shows and red carpet events. After watching them, I’d get out my crayons and would draw outfits.” The three year old fashion critic would also sit and give feedback to his grandma about the clothes the stars were wearing.

At nine, Jason made his first dress out of felt. In addition to designing clothes for Barbie, he also cut dresses out of paper and sent his designs to his relatives. As the years progressed, his grandparents took him shopping. He had a deal with his grandmother that if he styled her, she’d buy him clothes.

While attending Chico State, Jason was asked to put on a fashion show. He reconstructed clothes from the thrift store and over a thousand people attended. He decided to do another show for the school and sent letters to editors of popular magazines inviting them to the show. Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, sent him a reply, letting him know that he was talented and encouraged him to keep designing.

In 2005, during a trip to Washington, Peters learned that his grandmother had to have open heart surgery. He immediately rushed back to California and two days later, his grandmother passed. Two days after that, his biological mother died of cancer. After this tragic turn of events, Jason’s mind was gone. He spiraled out of control. He began drinking and partying. He went to class drunk and no one close to him said anything.

One day, after a night of heavy drinking, he couldn’t get out of bed. He felt paralyzed. He crawled downstairs and fell, hit his head on the floor, and was knocked unconscious. This was a serious wake-up call for Jason. He realized that he had so much grief and emotion built up, but this was not the way to handle it.

Jason decided to create a collection. His grandma always wanted him to design dresses with fishtails. Although he originally hated the idea, he decided to do it as a tribute to her. He designed a white dress which was a futuristic version of his grandmother’s wedding dress.

He later met designer Betsey Johnson and showed her a white and peach dress from his collection. She loved it and decided to show his dress. She also offered him an internship. After the internship ended, he returned to school.

With only two classes left until graduation, another opportunity arose. There was an ad on Craigslist calling for people interested in the fashion industry. He responded to the ad and got an invitation to fly to Los Angeles to discuss being on a reality show.

“I said, ‘What the hell’ and dropped out of school.” The show ended up being Tyra Banks’ Stylista. “I felt it was a good opportunity because I wanted people to know my life story.”
Before the show even aired, the entire cast was plastered in gossip magazines everywhere. One particular magazine chose to write very negative things about Jason in particular. “I never imagined that I would be in gossip magazines six weeks in a row.”

The second episode on the show was full of drama. Jason had a panic attack and was taken away in an ambulance. Instead of quitting the show, he wanted to come back and finish what he started. Needless to say, he got booted.

Although many people would’ve been devastated by being depicted as an emotional wreck on television, Jason used it to his advantage. “Use your fifteen minutes to boost your career. Although the show changed my life, I already had a career. The show just made my career ten times better! You go to people and mention the name, Tyra, and it’s a whole new world.”

Now living in New York, Jason has met many celebrities and has become well-known. However, he still works at H&M. “I love H&M and one day I plan to design for them. I have to have a real job to help fund my career and to survive. I know many of the girls from America’s Next Top Model. They get modeling jobs, but they also work real jobs. Look at Christian LaCroix. Look at Vibe Magazine. If you don’t have a cushion or a backup, you could lose everything.”

Rags ‘N’ Riches Exclusive Q&A Session:

Raphael: What makes you different from other fashion designers?

JCP: My clothes are designed with so much emotion and love. I also make sure that I never copy other designers. I come up with my own ideas. I also listen to my clients.

Raphael: If you could use one word to describe your fashions, what would it be and why?

JCP: Distinctive. I try to make stuff that is so unique that it can’t be duplicated. I can recognize one of my designs anywhere. For example, Jordan Sparks’ black dress in “Battlefield” is a direct knockoff of one of my designs. I love me some Jordan Sparks, but all her people had to do was call me. She would’ve gotten a dress from me. People can try to copy, but take Whitney Houston for example. You can try to sound like her, but there will never be another Whitney. Another word is exclusive. That’s what will make my clothes hot. Nobody wants something everybody else has.

Raphael: Many other designers like Christian Audigier should take note. Everybody is running around wearing Ed Hardy. Which one of your designs is the most requested?

JCP: My white dress. Valentino is known for the red dress. Chanel is known for the black dress. People are saying I will be known for my white dress.

Raphael: I hear you are coming out with a line based on Michael Jackson.

JCP: Yes. I was working on some other ideas for my line and when Michael died, I stopped production. My new line is inspired by both Michael Jackson and Rihanna. It will include both men’s and women’s fashions.

Raphael: Interesting combination. When will you be showing this line?

JCP: This line will be premiering during New York Fashion Week. My show won’t be in the Lincoln Center, but will be in an offsite location.

Raphael: Why would you do that?

JCP: I want it to feel exclusive. People like privacy.

Raphael: So give me some details about this “private” show.

JCP: Those that attend will get a real show. Like the Cirque de Soleil. I promise it won’t be boring. People won’t know what to expect. I can tell you it will feature my new line and will end with a special tribute to my grandmother. People will be left speechless and shocked. It will be emotional and beautiful. People are watching, so it has to be perfect.

Raphael: What are some big fashion faux pas that you notice?

JCP: Gladiator sandals. Men and women need to stop! That’s so two years ago. People need to get rid of them. They are ugly and the only thing they do is make your feet look ugly. High waisted shorts and pants. Also, I think Kanye West has amazing style, but people need to stop wearing geeky glasses. I wear them sometimes, but what I do is bust out the lenses. If you are going to follow trends, do something different. That’s what makes it high fashion.

Raphael: What are some of the hot trends for the fall?

JCP: Look to foreign countries for inspiration. People in other countries are wearing couture Hammer pants. In Paris, people wear them casually on the streets.

Middle Eastern fashions. Think Slumdog Millionaire. Middle Eastern headdresses, etc. are hot for this season. Actually, the collection that I was originally going to show during fashion week was Middle Eastern inspired.

Bowties. Not regular bowties. They are getting bigger and bigger. Diane Von Furstenberg is using large bowties in some of her shows.

Raphael: What are your top two color picks for the fall?

JCP: Wow. I hope I’m not wrong, but I’m going to say purples and blues. Every palette of purple and blue. Otherwise, a lot of darker colors. Whatever color you decide to do, do it crazy.

Raphael: What advice would you give to other designers?

JCP: So much has happened in society, both good and bad. If you don’t make your designs flawless, you will fail miserably. I don’t care if you are one of the top designers. Competition is at its highest peak now because customers are being more selective in what they buy.

While I’m sure many people still just see him as the boy who got kicked off of Stylista, Jason Christopher Peters is positioning himself to become one of the hottest names in the fashion industry. “If you are talented, people will recognize it and you will become famous. You can’t stop your life.”

Photos Courtesy:
Photo 1: Makeup Artist: Cristina Rivera