By PEARL RUNNING DEER
Remember the name Richard Petit. He’s a classic designer with a 1940’s flare. A designer who knows how to make a woman feel beautiful and will command a room just walking in with one of his dresses. There’s no question in this writer’s opinion.
Richard Petit’s name will be on the hall of fame alongside great film designers such as Orry-Kelly and Edith Head. With the Met Gala, other red-carpet events in New York City, fashion shows, and costumes needed for films, (especially westerns) on the horizon, Richard stays busy.
I recently got to work with Richard during Atlantic City Fashion Week. We spoke about an up-and-coming fashion shoot with horses in South Jersey.
Pearl Running Deer: How did you get into fashion?
Richard Petit: I never chose it; it chose me. I never knew I would eat, live, and breathe fashion. At eleven years old, I first discovered fashion. I remember being in the 3rd grade drawing my first ever Sailor Moon character, which I used to watch every morning before heading to school.
In middle school, I was able to draw and have an eye for color. I took art and undertook self-publishing. When I created magazines and booklets for each season, I realized people were willing to steal my work and present it as their own! I knew I was on to something.
By senior year, I had the desire to venture into formal dresses. Even at senior prom, the hallmark event that every girl remembers throughout her life, many girls showed up in my designs!
PRD: You told me you went through some hard times.
RP: Yes. It was around this time I experienced a tragic loss. My father died. It was then I realized, you only get one life to live. There are no do-overs. I adopted the motto “Do you,” meaning “Do what makes you happy.” We each have our own life to live; we each have to march to the beat of our own drummer.
PRD: What inspired you to mix horses with fashion?
RP: Horses are strong, majestic animals who usually always know what they want. They are expressive about their feelings and surroundings. I create using those same attributes and incorporate it to either the person I’m designing for or the theme I’m designing for.
PRD: You have such a passion about your art. Is that why you don’t mind doing clothes for western films?
RP: Passion is part of it, love is mostly why. The ability to re-create a visual of how it was to dress back in the western era, or any era, is amazing. It’s like watching the movie Titanic. Just with the costumes and wardrobe alone, you feel as though you’re in that era. Having the knowledge and doing the research is so ideal to transport you. Wardrobe is our time machine.
PRD: Would you design clothing for equestrian riders?
RP: I wouldn’t mind at all! I would love to add a touch of pizzaz and maybe a hint of glitter to not only the rider, but to their horse as
well. If Ralph Lauren put the key to unlock the possibility, I want to be the one to open the door.
Pearl Running Deer was one of the first Native Americans who rode on the circuit in the 80’s-2002. Her trainer was Maurice Honig from the French Equestrian team. From 2003-13 she was a high fashion model at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in NYC. She teaches, coaches at horse shows, and gives clinics. She is the founder of the nonprofit, Turtle Island Equestrian Inc..