​unlikely obsessions: peter jensen and starbucks

In an ongoing series of interviews, i-D talks to all manner of creative and interesting folks about specific things they love which you somehow wouldn't expect them to love.

by James Anderson
19 May 2015, 12:05pm

Since the beginning of the noughties, the work of Danish-born, east London-based designer Peter Jensen has appealed to many spirited women around the world. High profile female fans of his award-winning fashions have ranged from Kirsten Dunst, Tavi Gevinson, and Julia Freaks, to Amy Winehouse, Rihanna, Lindsay Lohan and Dakota Fanning, to name a few.

Jensen, who in addition to running his own label, is Head of MA Menswear at Central Saint Martins, is known for basing each womenswear collection on an offbeat muse. Throughout the years these have included Cindy Sherman, Sissy Spacek, Gertrude Stein and Mink Stole, as well as the disgraced US skater Tonya Harding, his own Auntie Jytte (who ran a chippy and taxi rank in Greenland), and, for fall/winter 15, his friend - the inimitable London nightlife icon, DJ, writer, and i-D contributor, Princess Julia.

The designer's love of eccentricity and individuality noticeably goes off the boil, however, when it comes to his daily caffeine fix. Not for him are the wannabe-alternative coffee shops which increasingly punctuate the capital's streets. He prefers his brew utterly formulaic and served in a cardboard cup, thanks very much, as opposed to swilling about in an upcycled jam jar with hipster beard hairs floating upon the surface.

Here, Jensen tells i-D why he loves this outrageously-mainstream coffee chain.

When did you first begin to frequent Starbucks?
When I was a student at Saint Martins, at the branch on Charing Cross Road. I sort of saw it as a luxury and I would love just sitting in the place and doing nothing, just looking at people. I remember once I was having a tutorial with Julie Verhoeven and she bought me a cappuccino. It made me so happy and made me feel very special, like she liked me - I don't know why I need to share this memory with i-D, I just remembered it now.

Are you one of those annoying people who order a very complicated kind of coffee, with loads of marshmallows and things crammed into it?
No, simple. I always order filter with milk. No, I'm lying, I also order cappuccino with chocolate on top, but I fucking hate all these special coffees: "Do you want low caffeine with no water, but made of human milk?" This is not a real coffee.

Do you have any favorite Starbucks cakes or pastries?
I really like the a caramel waffle and I would always bring one or two to Louise Wilson at Saint Martins every Wednesday and she would say, while eating them all in one go, "Stop bringing me these, you idiot! I get too fat!" I thought, "Really...? Too fat...?"

Which is your preferred branch, these days?
The one at St Pancras, it is close to the new Central Saint Martins' fancy building, so it is like a day out every Wednesday when I teach there.

Do you usually "take away" or do you like to hang out there? And do you go there alone, or with other Starbucks fans?
Mostly take away, but sometimes I sit down and look at the people, which is good fun. The best is if it's filled with Americans ordering weird non-coffees while eating three or four cakes. I prefer to go alone, because I can do what I want and not be judged.

Have you ever seen anyone famous at Starbucks?
Yes, I used to see Graham Cox from Blur at Starbucks in Camden. He was drinking coffee and just reading a newspaper, or something very normal like that.

Lots of fashionable London types claim they never go to Starbucks... do you believe them?
I don't believe people that say they don't go to Starbucks, everybody goes, of course they do... even Joni Mitchell. I remember, you could buy her last album in Starbucks.

What are your feelings about the interior decor?
Hmmm... maybe it would be better if it looked more like an American cafe, do you know what I mean? It is very bland and looks like it comes from an Argos catalogue. I think they should do them more bare, like a boring canteen, with everything in white, a white box, as if Edina Monsoon's friend Bettina had designed the room. Maybe it could have some polka dots, though, and a neon sign, like a fun fair. What do you think?

I don't know... I never go there. Except I do, sometimes. In what other ways would you change or improve Starbucks, generally?
Stop asking about one's name so that they can write it on the cup. I hate that, but also in a way love it. I like to say my surname and see them thinking, "You idiot..." when they can't work out how to spell it. Then when the coffee is ready they shout out, "Yenson!", which could be anyone.

There are various well-documented reasons why people slag off Starbucks, so does that make you feel you should be a bit more secretive about going there?
Shall I do a political answer? Or just say I do like it? But at the same time I don't want a branch of Starbucks appearing everywhere...


Text James Anderson
Photography Dante Fewster Holdsworth

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