EDGY AND CHIC
We first met Peter Davis as a young writer for Paper Magazine in New York City many years ago. We fondly remember Peter telling us he had already done about ten interviews for various publications that day. Since then, Peter has gone on to make his mark in the cutthroat world of magazine publishing. He became the editor-in-chief of New York society magazine Avenue, then left to start his own fashion and art magazine called Scene. After Scene, Peter had a short stint as an editor at digital media company Guest of A Guest, and has now landed at fashion industry publication The Daily Front Row. But what we admire more than anything about Peter Davis is his very approachable and down to earth demeanor, as well as his passion for culture from all walks of life. That’s quite a unique trait from a man raised in New York City’s high society. Portraits and interiors by Alexander Thompson. Additional photos courtesy of Peter Davis.
PONYBOY: Peter, please tell us about your upbringing in New York City.
PETER DAVIS: I was born at New York Hospital right around midnight on December 12th. The nurse wrote down Dec. 13th but my mother’s friend thought that was bad luck, so it was switched to the 12th after a few phone calls to some important doctors. I always loved the number 13, even before I heard that story. I grew up on the Upper East Side, but when I was 12 I would take my skateboard and get on the 6 train and head downtown whenever I could.
PONYBOY: Tell us about your family’s history.
PETER DAVIS: My great grandfather, Dwight F. Davis (my real name is Dwight F. Davis IV) was Secretary of War and Ambassador to the Philippines. He was also a great tennis player and started The Davis Cup. He was even on the cover of Time magazine. My mother’s father, Henry Mucci, was a Colonel in World War II. He was a true war hero and a bunch of books have been written about him because he freed over 513 prisoners of war from the Cabantuan prison camp. The whole thing was called the Bataan Death March and they made a movie out of it starring James Franco. Benjamin Bratt played my grandfather. I met Benjamin on a shoot right after he made the movie and he acted like I was a celebrity.
PONYBOY: Your mother was a magazine editor. Is this why you got into publishing?
PETER DAVIS: My mother, Senga Mortimer, was the Gardening Editor of House & Garden under many editors including Anna Wintour. She was also the Design Director at Elle Décor. She really knows her stuff. But that didn’t get me into magazines. I interned at Paper when I was a teenager. I needed an internship for school and I was a fan of Paper and they also printed something about being pro-pot so that cinched the deal for me. My mother and I have never actually crossed paths in our career. When I wrote for Vogue when I was 24, Anna Wintour had no idea that I was related to Senga Mortimer because we have different last names. But I am a big fan of my mother and all the shoots she produces. She has impeccable taste in everything.
PONYBOY: Tell us a bit about your different looks that have evolved over the years.
PETER DAVIS: The only real cultish look I had was when I was a teenager, and I was hardcore punk. I had blue hair – a mowhawk shaped in spikes. You name it. I hung out at CBGB’s on Sundays and went to hardcore shows. I grew up wearing a coat and tie to school since first grade, so I definitely stood out with Manic Panic hair and combat boots on the Upper East Side. I still love that look. It’s very cartoon. In boarding school everyone was a mash up of preppy and hippie and I liked that, too. It was all related to smoking pot, which I also did plenty of in the woods of Connecticut.
PONYBOY: Who are your favorite designers? And more importantly, what designers do you personally wear?
PETER DAVIS: My favorite designer to wear is Timothy Everest, my superstar tailor in London. But bespoke clothes are the price of a car, so it’s not like I have my boxers custom made for me (even though that sounds like a good idea). I am very loyal to certain brands. I only wear Thom Browne button downs because they age so well, and Charvet ties. I like John Lobb shoes and for sneakers I like Nike, Vans and a new brand called Greats, which are designed down the street from me in Williamsburg. I like Michael Bastian for jackets and Levi’s for jeans. And I have a massive collection of Supreme. I have major connections at Supreme, so I get the good stuff always and never wait in line. Fashion-y wise, I love Martin Margiela and Helmut Lang (when he designed the line). I still wear Margiela and Lang stuff I have from 1999. The only jewelry I wear is my blacked-out Rolex and my engagement ring by Philip Crangi.
PONYBOY: You are an avid collector of the arts. What art do you primarily like collecting? Who are your favorite artists?
PETER DAVIS: I am obsessed with collecting art. I love photography. I own Larry Clark, William Klein, Bruce Gilden, Cindy Sherman, and Danny Lyon. I like photojournalists with a twisted, macabre eye. The same with art, I have a bunch of spooky Edward Gorey drawings and prints and a big, hot pink Andy Warhol electric chair. I also have started to amass some young street artists like Neckface. If I could afford anything, I’d score some Max Beckmann paintings.
PONYBOY: A few years ago you left Manhattan and made a brave move to live in Brooklyn. Tell us what that’s been like for you.
PETER DAVIS: I have lived my whole life in Manhattan. Most of my adult life was in Tribeca, but I was ready to literally leave the city. I couldn’t bear the site of another Duane Reade. Everything that made me feel at home was being closed down. The final straw came when Gino, a red sauce Italian restaurant I grew up going to, became a Sprinkles. Could anything worse happen? So I moved to Williamsburg without even knowing much about Brooklyn and for the past two years I have never been happier. It reminds me of what downtown was like when I was a teenager. I love my neighborhood more and more every day.
PONYBOY: We’ve had the pleasure of meeting your handsome fiance, designer Logan Samuelson. How did the two of you meet?
PETER DAVIS: Logan and I met at a party in Bridgehampton years ago. I am so lucky to be engaged to him. He is younger, better looking, smarter and much more grounded than I am. What more could I ask for?
PONYBOY: Your sister Minnie Mortimer, who is a fashion designer and wife of writer/director Stephen Gaghan, resides on the West Coast. Are you able to still stay close to her?
PETER DAVIS: Minnie is my best friend. We text and speak constantly. I’ve had about 4 different places in L.A. over the years, so we’ve shared a Cali thing for a long time together. I’m going out west soon to see her. She is so funny and so smart and has the best style.
PONYBOY: We see photos of you uptown, downtown, and even in Bushwick. Peter, please tell us what your favorite way to spend an evening is.
PETER DAVIS: The honest truth is that Logan and I go to sushi (Bozu in Williamsburg) and see every new movie that comes out. The manager of the movie theater actually knows us to the point that when a popular movie was sold out one Friday, he slipped us in as he saves seats for friends and family. I had never felt more VIP. When I do go out I like Indochine. My friend Hanuk Hanuk and I have hosted a few dinner parties there over the past few months and I adore the owner Jean-Marc Harmoud. For a cocktail, there is no spot more beautiful than the Boom Boom Room.
PONBOY: Lastly, fill us in on your exit from editor-in-chief of Scene magazine, up to your current position at The Daily Front Row. And is there anything else you are working on that we should look out for?
PETER DAVIS: Doing my own magazine, SCENE, was a great experience. But it was just myself and two other people. And I had no budget. I just got so burnt out. I couldn’t face another situation where I had to send an Uber X for Iman to get to the cover shoot, but try and trick her into thinking it was a car service. The one thing I learned is how to make something look like I spent a lot of money when I barely spent a penny. Brandusa Niro, who founded The Daily, and I were always in touch and wanting to work together. This is the perfect home for me. I am currently busy on The Daily Hollywood, which will be published in early January. It’s going to be major. Wait until you see the cover! And naturally my sister Minnie is our West Coast Correspondent.