The fashion business isn’t easy, especially for emerging designers. Launched last September, NET-A-PORTER’s The Vanguard program aims to change that with a mentorship program for talented brands. The second season launched today with four new designers: Peter Do, Commission, Anne Manns and Ratio Et Motus. 

One of the designers, New York-based Peter Do, was motivated to launch his namesake label after receiving feedback from his Instagram followers. “I wanted to start a conversation through my work. I felt like I had a lot to say and express through my designs,” says Do. We asked the designer about he learned from working at different houses and why he’s in no hurry to grow. 

How did working with designers like Phoebe Philo at CÉLINE and Derek Lam influence you and your label? 

“Phoebe taught me the importance of trial and error. She is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever come across and will test everything until she gets it right. Some of the best creations are often serendipitous. Meanwhile at Derek, I was part of a much smaller company — which allowed me to get involved in merchandising and sales. I really began to understand the business side of fashion, which is imperative to understand when starting a label.”

What was the inspiration behind your Spring Summer 2019 collection? 

“The starting point for this collection was Irving Penn’s Small Trades. I loved the way he portrayed the working class with the same reverence as he did with his celebrity subjects. I noticed that many of their professional uniforms became part of their being. A number of these tradesmen and women were wearing aprons to protect themselves of their work, yet left the back completely exposed. Many of the pieces in the Spring Summer 2019 collection have the same vulnerable element of an exposed back.”

What does participating in the program mean for your brand?

“It’s been an amazing opportunity. It gives us the opportunity to grow with the right kind of mentorship and guidance. When you’re starting a new brand, you hope it will perform well and the public will respond to it. Then when you gain a little bit of traction, you’re being accosted by potential partners. NET-A-PORTER has really been able to help us manage our growth and at a rate we feel comfortable. The entire team at NET-A-PORTER has been incredibly receptive and willing to work with us on our brand’s needs, from legal advice to brand positioning.” 

What’s next for you and the label?  

“Well, I want to grow naturally. We are a brand built on Instagram, and a lot of my followers have been asking when I would start my own line. I think right now I want to cater to them, and really understand my client base. I don’t want to grow too quickly. Let’s learn to walk before we run, right? I just finished Fall Winter 2019, which I think is the perfect continuation of the visual dialogue started in Spring Summer 2019.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.