As a native New Yorker growing up on the Upper East Side, Peter Davis definitely stood out a little bit. Sporting combat boots, fake nerd glasses and electric blue hair, he wasn’t your typical teenager stomping down Park Avenue. After majoring in art at Bennington College (where, he says he “pretty much never took a class that involved writing a word”), he returned to New York. He reconnected with Kim Hastreiter and David Hershkovits, editors of downtown favorite Paper Magazine, for whom he had interned with in high school. The two helped Peter get re-acclimated to the city, as well as nurture his writing career. To this day, he still frequently contributes to the magazine, as well as their blog.
His freelance writing career began to take off. His work appeared in publications that included Vanity Fair, Out, Vogue, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Daily Beast. He then fell directly into the fashion world, as the Features Director of Fashion Week Daily. Contributing to multiple outlets at the same time served him well, as he was able to build an impressive portfolio and reputation, not to mention interview some of the most iconic figures in fashion history, including Valentino, Manolo Blahnik and Marc Jacobs.
The biggest moment of his career had yet to come. Last summer, Avenue Magazine, a glossy Manhattan magazine covering the lives of the socially prominent, asked Peter to be the editor-in-chief of avenueinsider.com, their newly launched website. As an avid Twitter and Facebook user, he is no stranger to the power of social media, and is frequently providing links to stories, as well as interacting with readers. Within months, he was also running the 35-year-old magazine. What impressed me the most about Peter was his openness about his sexuality, and how he incorporates it in his work. Sure, the fashion industry is an accepting place, but Manhattan’s old guard can be a little cold. For his first Avenue cover as editor-in-chief, he chose openly gay designer Chris Benz, who he labeled as “the next great American designer.” Benz’s rainbow colored hair was an enormous contrast for longtime Avenue readers, who are used to seeing couture clad socialites grace the cover. The issue was well received, and he has continued plans to make the magazine fresher and bolder.
This attitude also dominates his personal life. “I think the more gay voices that are out there, the easier it will be for teens to come out and feel accepted,” Peter told me, explaining why he felt it was necessary to blog frequently in opposition of Proposition 8, as well as fly to Los Angeles to protest. While he was lucky enough to have a smooth coming out experience, he tries to reach out to gay people in any way he can to help them navigate what can be an incredibly scary journey. “I am proud to be gay, and I quite literally shout it loudly, both in everyday life and in print.”
No matter what he’s doing, Peter is doing it in his own style. Pairing Michael Bastian jackets and Thom Browne shirts with offbeat street labels like Supreme and one of over 300 pairs of Vans slip-ons (he’s a collector of sorts), his motto is, “Overdress all the time as it looks like you are coming from or going to somewhere better than you already are.” But even wearing a velvet tuxedo jacket, he is never uptight, and notes that, “Style is not only a reflection of who you are, but it is a chance to have fun.” The ability to take risks has defined both his fashion sense and career, both of which are unique reflections of his warm, accepting nature.
While not all of us may be so lucky to be able to express our sexuality throughout our work, Peter reminded me how important it is to incorporate who you are into your everyday life. Being open and honest gives others the courage and opportunity to do so as well. Behind Peter’s more known identity as a man about town, I found a passionate, hardworking individual who wants everyone to experience the same self-acceptance and courage that he has. By exposing both his personality and sexuality throughout various outlets, such as his writing and enormous social media presence, he is undoubtedly making a difference within our community.