Studied Streetwear

Studied Streetwear

By Erin Barajas

L.A. designer Peter James Lee blends high design with street credibility
to create Cassette, streetwear for the connoisseur.

In a studio on a gritty Los Angeles side street Peter James Lee plays an
unassuming fashion underdog. But, with his young designer streetwear
brand, Cassette, hanging alongside Yoji Yamamoto and Yves Saint Laurent in
top tier stores like Harvey Nichols in London, Barney’s New York, Fred
Segal and Villains Vault, Lee is a part of an elite crew hoisting L.A.
street fashion from the pavement to the global fashion stage.
With designer fashion invading city streets, streetwear has to step up.
“It has to feel real and be well-designed” Lee says. Street sartorialists,
like record junkies and sneaker fiends before them, want luxury,
exclusivity and style something Lee is perfectly poised to give them.
As Puma’s lifestyle designer, Lee traveled six months of the year and
admittedly went anywhere a “connecting flight and an excuse” could take

him. Years of jet setting between London, Hong Kong, Berlin, Tokyo and New
York fed Lee’s global perspective and design aesthetic. “There’s a lot
going on out there and one of the key things I learned is to just sit and
look at people around you. It sounds boring, but you learn so much just
watching people walk on by,” he mentioned. Later, as creative director for
Hudson Jeans, Lee learned the ins-and-outs of premium denim, a cornerstone
for streetwear.
Now, as the head of his own brand, Lee looks to vintage garments from the
’20s for construction cues and mines his own lifestyle and that of his
peers for design inspiration. “Cassette’s approach is analog, not digital.
Our focus is on craftsmanship, design and construction. Where other brands
spend hours and hours on T-shirt graphics and embellishment, we put in
hours and hours on fit, seams, rivets, pockets, all the tiny details that
add depth and value. We don’t have a graphic element at all,” he said.
It’s a cerebral approach to detail and design, “So, on the surface

Cassette looks really sparse, but look closer and you will see that so
much work goes into even the most simple piece.” And, like an
old-fashioned tailor or a high-end atelier, Cassette offers custom-made
pieces, including skinny wool suits and pitch-perfect bespoke jeans.
For Fall, Cassette offers guys super clean handmade denim sewn on vintage
machines, skinny jackets made of imported waxed cotton, wool fisherman
sweaters and quilted boiled wool jackets. Girls, often overlooked in the
testosterone-heavy streetwear market, get felted wool capes with moldable
hoods, short knit sweater dresses, fitted wool pea coats and subtly sexy
jeans. For more fashion-forward types, Lee designed a skinny leg
jodhpur-style jean with a super-long rise and a slouchy crotch and ass.
The look, for both sexes, is a little ninja, a little skater and very
quirky. “It’s not for everyone, but it is so comfortable,” he said.
So far, the reaction from editors, retailers and shoppers has been great.
“All the countless hours working through the night is all worth it when we
hear that people are liking and responding to what we’re doing. We’re a

small team and everyone is making a big sacrifice to be here because we
believe in the brand and what it can be,” Lee said. Without a big
marketing budget or public relations gurus outfitting celebrities in free
goodies, Cassette is growing by word of mouth and on the backs of


Looking at the future of designer streetwear, Lee sees only opportunity
for Cassette. ‘We’re bridging the gap. We are a designer fashion brand
that is appreciated on the fashion connoisseur level and real enough for
the street cool guy to appreciate,” he said.

Erin Barajas is California Apparel News’ manufacturing editor.