Hardeep & Mandeep Kaur
An interview with the sister design duo behind Per/Se London
Amidst the fast fashion tsunami, Per/Se is creating a wave of its own. The London-based fashion label has elevated the “buy less, buy better” concept with a new idea: release just one coat every two months. But not just any coat – a refined outer layer designed specifically for the world’s thinkers, doers and innovators.
Quality has always been important to Hardeep and Mandeep Kaur, the twins behind the ethos-driven brand. After leaving their respective careers in law and luxury jewellery PR, the sisters launched their debut label Nom de Mode. While successful, the speed of the traditional production cycle left little time for research and development. So the duo made a bold move to eschew trends, seasons and catwalks in favour of longevity. In August 2016, they launched Per/Se with the Nebula Coat, a pink patterned duster in a luxe textile by Danish brand Kvadrat. The label’s name is pronounced ‘per say,’ as in the Latin phrase meaning ‘by itself’.
The West London sisters trace their tactile relationship to fabric and fit back to their North Indian heritage. As children, their mother often outfitted them in tailor-made clothing, with the focus always being on quality.
These days, HK and MK still dress to the nines. The twins suggest we meet at The Arts Club on Dover Street, a private members club that counts Dickens, Monet, Degas and Rodin as former members. The beautifully curated space is one of the Kaurs’ favourite spots in Mayfair, an exclusive district known for all things luxury.
“We’ve always been West London girls. I think our style has probably been influenced by the city without even realizing it,” says Mandeep. “In London, we have complete freedom as to how we dress. When you travel abroad, you realize how much people express themselves here.”
Despite a few identical features, each twin has her own distinct style. While Hardeep prefers clean lines, Mandeep loves to experiment with bold colour combinations— a trait that once had her “looking like a leprechaun in different shades of green with silver shoes on.” The twins, seated across from me on a couch in the club’s upstairs lounge, laugh as they analyze each other’s personal styles.
“London doesn’t have a sense of overt tribal dressing. Each person carries his or her own story. It’s ok to have things in common but you should embrace every difference you have, whether you’re Canadian, speak French or have a love of Picasso,” says Hardeep. “There is also a sense of identity linked to the things that you buy.”
On paper, their previous label was a triumph: applauded at London Fashion Week and worn by celebrities like Olivia Palermo. But as conscious shoppers with discerning tastes, the sisters soon realized they wanted a brand that aligned with their core values.
“I’ve never shopped thinking, ‘I won’t wear this very long.’ It’s always seemed mad! I think that’s because of our upbringing. By admitting that you don’t need as much, you can be fussier. You can live more consciously. We have to fall in love with every single coat that we produce, which we do,” says Mandeep, who just so happens to be wearing one of Per/Se’s creations. Testing out samples is all part of the brand’s in-depth design process. As the twins lead us on a neighbourhood tour, a woman stops Mandeep to compliment her on her coat. It appears this one has hit the mark.
The duo applied their experience of working in the corporate world to their design philosophy, which specifically targets the woman on-the-go. Secret pockets and a smartphone slot support a “hands-free existence” while the wide cut allows for effortless layering.
“We love the idea of that final layer— it’s like an armour, a uniform, it’s the first thing anyone sees,” says Hardeep.
Their second piece, released in October 2016, is the Anthem Coat. The design features Per/Se’s signature silhouette in a light grey neoprene textile with accents in cork fabric that was woven in Portugal. Each coat is made-to-order and shipped from their London studio. Once the next coat is released, the previous edition is no longer available.
“We put so much time into each piece. Our woman is investing in the idea that just one coat, just one thought, just one action can make a difference,” says Mandeep.
Working and living close to Hyde Park, the Kaurs often start their day with a stroll by the Serpentine lake to see the swans. The 2016 Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, served as the backdrop for the photo shoot for the Nebula Coat.
Architecture’s mood altering quality has always inspired the twins, who make a game of going around town “lamenting ugly buildings” and admiring the majestic ones. They’re partial to West London for it’s architecture, green spaces, iconic arcades and museums.
“The Victoria and Albert Museum is a quick hit of inspiration, whether we’re inside for five minutes, an hour or half the day,” says Hardeep. “London is so various – that’s the beauty of it. You just have to look. If you’re happy to use your eyes, you’ll find it’s very vast and visually rich.”
The way the twins gush about London, it’s hard not to join in and appreciate the beauty around us. They admit that even the touristic spots— Buckingham Palace and the London Eye— never get old. But most of all, it’s the city’s diversity that keeps them stimulated.
“London let’s you experiment with your sense of style. I think it’s because it’s a melting pot of different cultures and identities,” says Mandeep.
In a city that champions the unique, the different, and the pioneers who aren’t afraid to break the mould, there’s no better place to switch up the fashion cycle. Sometimes, it takes two to make just one change. ■
*As seen in the Volume Two: The London Issue