Designer Peter James Lee turns teenage kicks into a full-grown co-ed friendly line. By Gabriel Bell
"I grew up on the streets in Los Angeles," says Peter James Lee, designer of the unisex urbanwear imprint Cassette. "Surfing, snowboarding, pool hopping, being mischievous…I was 'one of those street kids.'"
A generation later, 'one of those kids' has parlayed his teenage kicks into a successful design career. Working for Roxy, Quiksilver, O' Neill, Paul Frank, American Eagle, and acting as International Lifestyle Designer for Puma, Lee worked the streets and the customs line, creating stylish sportswear while bridging European and American tastes. "I've had to get refills on my passport," he adds.
Back in L.A., Lee has turned to the creation of Cassette, a line that applies the best of old-world millenarian techniques to the versatility of streetwear. A dark, punkish label that spins clever hoodies and sharp, utilitarian jackets out of merino wool, Cassette seems like the mature extension of the '80s and '90s skate aesthetic.
"Every pro skater back then looked different from the next pro," says Lee of the era. "It was just the mind set back then—a way to graffiti on other peoples property without paint." Lee has matured beyond such broad brush strokes and neon accents, of course. Using a sober color pallette, Cassette presents a quiet rebellion. From its tapered jeans to the simple sweaters, the line offers an alternate take on classic looks. It's not easy to craft a clean-seamed reversible cardigan that any punk could love, but Lee has done it.
"I would like Cassette always to have a streak of rebellion running through it," offers Lee, whose latest Alaskan-themed fall/winter collection owed more to Jack London than anything you might find in Santa Monica. It's a strong declaration of design independence from this L.A. street kid.
"Screw scenes," he says of the town that was once his skatepark. "Cassette would look like this if we were based out of Hawaii."
Designer Peter James Lee turns teenage kicks into a full-grown co-ed friendly line.