LONDON — When Gigi Hadid revealed her pregnancy on Instagram in August 2020, she wore a long white dress that gripped her body and new bump with a wet trompe-l’oeil illusion.
The designer in question was Central Saint Martins graduate Dimitra Petsa who runs the London-based label Di Petsa, which also has caught the attention of FKA Twigs, Kim Kardashian, Zendaya and Doja Cat.
Petsa isn’t the only British-based designer redefining the definition of sexiness — London’s female designer pool Nensi Dojaka and Sinéad O’Dwyer are also putting their own spin on creating sensual garments.
RELATED: Di Petsa Fall 2023 review
“When I think of sexiness in clothes it’s more of a masturbatory kind of sense because it’s for your own pleasure,” Petsa said.
“It really comes from being a woman designing for other women, but also seeing my friends in it. I think sex can sometimes be construed as something that doesn’t have a lot of depth in it, that it’s not very ideological or deep, but I think sex is tapping into your sexuality, it’s something that’s only for you,” she added.
Petsa’s designs are figure hugging with grecian draping that gives the illusion that each garment has been soaked in heavy water and then taken out to wear.
The wet look was conceived from Petsa’s MA thesis about “accepting our natural body waters,” which she completed in 2018. She would perform in public drenched in water as part of her university project, but it sparked the idea of how she could make something wet without the effort of having to constantly step into water.
The wet technique took six months to create and it’s a secret that the designer keeps close to her chest.
“If you cry in public, you have to hide it. If you sweat in public, you have to hide it. If you’re breastfeeding, you have to hide it. It was all about the censorship of our wet self,” Petsa explained about her fascination with the theme of wetness.
“I wanted to create that woman who comes from the water and she accepts the connection to the sea, but to also deconstruct it,” she adds.
The Greek designer is very spiritual. Every month she hosts full moon workshops on Zoom that last up to four hours with a maximum of 12 people, but there have been months where the request has been so high that she’s had to host two back-to-back classes.
Her classes tap into her love for performance art and being engaged with the world around her, which she’s incorporating into her first runway show during London Fashion Week.
Petsa has prepared a set of poems and songs that she will be reciting and singing during her show, where she plans to sit on a giant rock in the middle of the runway.
“Performing is something that’s very important for me as I want to participate in the artwork because it’s personal to me and there’s often a big disconnect between designers and their models. You would ask the model to do something that you wouldn’t do, so it’s nice to have this intimate connection with the models,” Petsa said.
Another integral part of Petsa’s show will be the link back to Greek mythology. For fall 2023, she’s chosen Persephone as her muse — the queen of the underworld.
“It’s about how she went from a virgin daughter to being the ruler of the underworld. It’s really about rebirth and how at times you have to do some shadow work and break yourself in order to heal,” said Petsa, sharing that the runway will be transformed into three cycles.
The first will be the sun, where there will be a big mess in the background with sand as models strut down the runway in gold and red looks; it will then be followed by black sirens that are “sexy, dark and feminine” with the moon in the background, and then it’s going to end on an eclipse with more bright looks, which means she’s come full circle.
She’s peppering in mythological creatures, such as angels wearing wings in white, plus pregnant women; women breastfeeding and children, to encompass mythological femininity.
Petsa has partnered with the brand TômTex, a biomaterial-maker, to create corsets in faux leather made out of mushrooms. She designed it to replicate the look of snake leather, fish scales and normal leather to produce a collage of various leathers in one look.
This season she’s introducing denim made using a knitting technique that has the illusion of ripped jeans, but in reality it’s a completely smooth surface. As an extra addition to the show element, she’s created special childrenswear, which she’s been approached to do by one of her stockists, Ssense.
Di Petsa is stocked at Selfridges, Farfetch, The Webster and LN-CC. A large number of orders come from the made-to-order side of the business, which includes bridalwear, occasionwear and pregnancy — with everything starting at 1,000 pounds and going up to 7,000 pounds, which is the most expensive dress she’s made to date. A classic wet look starts at around 3,000 pounds.
The dresses go up to a size large on U.K. stockists, which is an equivalent of a U.S. 10.
The whole business is funded by Petsa with no plans to partner up with an investor yet, but when she eventually does, she wants it to be the right moment she said. She’s eyeing expansion in Europe and Asia while growing her team and wholesale business.
The next thing on her list is to launch menswear at some point as she does that privately, but she’s waiting for the right time so that it’s “very thoughtful and researched, not just something I do on a whim.”