MON FRÈREThe go-to tailor for Hollywood and hip-hop royalty, Davidson Petit-Frère is a cut above the rest.
You might not know Davidson Petit-Frère’s name, but you’ll know his work. His bespoke double-breasted suits are favoured by Jay-Z – you might recall the sky-blue two-piece he wore alongside Beyoncé for their Brits acceptance speech last year; and he designed the killer wardrobe for Omari Hardwick’s character in the Netflix series Power. The man who calls Paul Pogba ‘mon frère’ has a celebrity roster that most brands can only dream of. So, what’s it like fitting suits for sports stars and hip-hop royalty? “You’re always a little nervous when it’s someone you admire, but once I’m in my element the roles are reversed,” Petit-Frère says. “Then, through my work, they become a fan of me.”
Meeting Petit-Frère, it’s hard not to become a fan. When he steps out of the cab, he is dressed in an immaculately cut dark-purple suit with a black turtleneck and shades – passers-by would be forgiven for assuming he’s one of the film stars he dresses. “I make sure to look the part,” he says. “The sell is a lot easier when you’re a product of your product.”
A native New Yorker, Petit-Frère learned the adage ‘Your first impression is your last impression’ from his time as a real-estate agent – so much so that the sartorial aspect of his job took over. “Once I took a big interest in the way I dressed, the amount of work I got increased – so I realised that appearance is key. I’d post selfies of my work outfits on the side to promote my real-estate career, and it just blew up,” he explains. (his Instagram account had 277k followers at the time of writing). “The reaction I got made me think, Wow, maybe I can make a living from this.
“I was 21 and, while I loved my job, I was kind of at a crossroads. Like, do I really want to do this for the rest of my life? And I realised, if I’m having more fun designing outfits, then maybe that’s a sign for me to segue into another field.”
“I want our man to feel confident, because when you look your f***ing best, you walk and talk with swagger”
Now a Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ honouree, Petit-Frère caters to an international client base. Whether he’s at suit fittings or travelling to fabric mills across Europe, he’s always on the move. “I’m only here for a couple of days. Then I fly back to New York... but I’m used to it,” he says. “One client wanted four tuxedos for his wife’s birthday, so I came to London for 24 hours. I flew 14 hours for a one-hour fitting – but that service is what we’re all about.”
The jet-set lifestyle comes through in Frère’s sleek menswear collection, which – alongside its on-point cut – emphasises comfort, freedom of movement and versatility.
“My whole thing is that a man should never complain when wearing a garment,” Petit-Frère says as he points to the stretch fabric and quarter lining of his designs. “I’m a big guy, so I like my stuff very tailored, but I need to feel comfortable. I need to move around and not feel restricted, like I’m in a body bag.
“The Frère man travels the world, so I want clothing that breathes. I can wear this suit over a T-shirt in Miami and layer it with a turtleneck when I head back to New York.”
Which brings us to his latest collection. Launched at New York Fashion Week – where Frère made its runway debut – the Spring/Summer 2020 range is “fun and colourful, but also classic”, he says, and takes inspiration from the designer’s Haitian and French roots.
Alongside Jay-Z’s pastel-blue number, there’s a paisley-print velvet tuxedo, subtle checked suiting and tailored tracksuits in grey pinstripe or camel. Of the label’s blend of formal and casual, Petit-Frère says, “It’s about bringing the techniques of fit, quality and hand detailing to every piece. We’ve designed an exclusive suede bomber jacket for Harvey Nichols. It has ‘London’ embroidered on the back – an expensive technique, but it makes the piece unique.”
Being your own man is what the label is all about, Petit-Frère says. “The goal is to stand out without being excessive. I want our man to feel confident, because when you look your f***ing best, you walk and talk with swagger.”
Of course, not everyone possesses that level of charisma and self-possession; but thanks to Frère, they can dress like they do.
Photography by Jack Margerison