The fashion designer Petar Petrov is a bit shy but certainly carries a determined demeanor.
Born in the Ukraine, he moved to Vienna in 1999 in order to study fashion at the University of Applied Arts. Back then, little did the Bulgarian know what would await him in this city. During his studies, Petar founded his own label, PETAR PETROV. With simple, innovative and elegant clothes for men, which are are being flaunted in Paris every year, he slowly expanded his client base around the globe and is now also designing fashion for women. Besides Europe, you can find both collections throughout Japan, United States, and China. Thereby he is one of the few fashion designers, who created an international empire.
His atelier is located within a beautiful old building in Vienna. In this space, he works on his upcoming collections, chooses fabrics and prepares for fashion fairs and shows. When he is not working here he can be found next door in his well-lit apartment. This is where he prefers to spend time with friends and share a bottle of good wine or two. Besides being surrounded by his four walls, he likes to visit flea markets and gain inspiration by observing the flow of everyday life and the individuals that make up Austria’s capital.
When did you move from Bulgaria to Vienna?
I was twenty years old. Back then I didn’t really know much about Vienna. The opportunity of coming here just kind of arose out of nowhere. I wanted to work within the artistic scene and therefore decided to study fashion at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. I was lucky and got accepted at my first trial.
When did you decide to create your own label?
That was around 2003, but there was never a fixed date of origin. During my studies I already started experimenting and developing my own projects. Everything was step by step. I never wanted to do an internship. The entire process consisted of ‘learning by doing.’
What was the biggest challenge at the beginning of your career?
Not knowing how certain things would work. Eventually I overcame them, difficulties are also there to master.
How has departure supported you?
It provides me with the opportunity to make important steps in regards to development. If I cannot realize specific projects due to a financial situation, departure offers me their support and help.
Why didn’t you move to a city that was better known as a fashion centre?
You can work well here in Vienna and have sufficient time for yourself. Besides that, I have all my friends here. I truly recommend this city if one has the occasional chance to travel. One really gets to appreciate it.
Is there something that you miss in Vienna?
Vienna could be a bit more international, but perhaps this is in the making. It has its advantages and restrictions.
Do you take notice of the international fashion scene?
Yes, it is important to be updated. Otherwise I wouldn’t know what to design. It is important to take a look at the market and see what is being offered.
What was the very first piece of clothing you designed?
That must have been during my studies. But I actually don’t want to remember those pieces! (laughs) They must have been some really funny ones. But one keeps developing and, especially within the fashion world, almost everything has an expiration date. If one takes a look at older things, one realizes that they don’t belong in the present.
What kind of fashion did you want to make in the past?
Something more sporty. What I am doing now is an advancement of what I used to do; luxury clothing – one must always redefine the self.
Who do you envision when you design?
I want to design for someone who is confident and my clothes should only fortify this presence. My clothes are for people that are strong and stylistically confident, and have a personal sense for fashion. I have younger and older clients, which I like.
Did you always want to be a designer?
I have no idea. It kind of just happened. I started to study and wanted to find out whether it would be something interesting to me or not. I continued and now I am here. It certainly was never a childhood dream.
What would you be if you weren’t a designer?
That has never been a concern of mine. My work fulfills me and I couldn’t imagine doing something different. At least at this very moment there is no other option. I definitely would do something that had to do with design.
What inspires you about Vienna?
I collect impressions which I process consciously or unconsciously. Everything fascinates me about this city, but I couldn’t define it.
Are their neighborhoods you really appreciate?
I actually really like region 6, which is young and dynamic. It gets an interesting mix of people due to the Naschmarkt and Mariahilferstraße. It is not very touristy and therefore comfortable to work in. During the week it is very lively and on the weekend it quiets down, as the streets become empty.
But other interesting areas are developing as well. For example region 2, which I find very inspiring. It is not as commercial and one is still able to find small shops and bakeries.
What do you show your guests when they are in Vienna?
First all sorts of tourist attractions, depending on the guest. I can recommend a walk through the cemetery – Wiener Zentralfriedhof. Other than that I really like to check out flea markets. During spring and fall there are many flea markets that are worth a trip and give a good insight into Vienna’s soul. Trips outside of Vienna are also really great. For example Südburgenland, the weather is always good and it is a great place to relax. A visit to the holy mass at Orchesterkonzert on Sunday can also be quite the experience.
What would be your concrete recommendations?
Cafe Hawelka because of their homemade Buchteln which are sweet rolls. Schwarze Kameel is very cozy for an afternoon snack and drink. If you like cakes then Demel is perfect, even though it is a bit touristy. At night I like to go eat with friends at Skopik & Lohn. Also, a good of friend of mine is about to open a restaurant, called Herknerin. I am sure lots of nights will be spent there.
Do you have a muse?
I have many muses who are my friends. I am inspired by people who are interested in fashion but don’t live for it. That is something exciting to me.
What is a typical day in your life?
There is no such thing. I like variety and organize each day differently. Principally I work a lot, which means I am very often at the office.
How does Petar Petrov relax?
Never (laughs). There are times where there is more and less to do. I like to go to flea markets or exhibitions, meet with friends, or go on vacation. But that depends on the day and season.
Thank you very much for this interesting conversation and tour through your atelier and apartment. Find out more about Petar Petrov’s fashion label here.
This portrait is part of our ongoing collaboration with ZEIT Online who present a special curation of our pictures on their site. Have a look here.
Interview & text: Nathalie Halgand
Fotos: Lukas Gansterer