Dressed for Success

An up-and-coming designer aims to make it big in Southwest Florida and beyond.

Peter Jean-Marie

Southwest Florida fashion designer Peter Jean-Marie, 24, is known as the “Millennial Mogul.” He earned the nickname from a news outlet after pocketing $2,000 over three days at his first pop-up shop at Coastland Center mall on a Black Friday weekend. He then trademarked the name and has run with it ever since.

“It stuck out to me because I’m a millennial and kids my age and younger can look up to me,” Jean-Marie says.

The budding entrepreneur, with his upbeat personality and affinity for eccentric blazers, tends to leave a lasting impression. While studying design at the Miami International University of Art & Design, he earned national acclaim for creating a gown from Ferrero Rocher chocolates during a competition held at Miami International Mall. He also toured his designs at other colleges, including the University of Florida, while in school. In 2019, he made it to the second round of auditions for ABC’s entrepreneur-based reality show “Shark Tank.”

Celebrities including singer Chaka Khan, rapper T.I. and actress Cherie Johnson have even given him words of encouragement on social media, and performer Wayne Hoffman has agreed to mentor him, he said. As of this writing, Jean-Marie has 44.4K followers on Instagram alone.

His menswear designs have a way of standing out. He opts for high-quality imported fabric in fun, geometric prints and bold colors, such as brick red and lime green.

“I’m so used to seeing the basic colors: gray, black and navy blue suits,” Jean-Marie says. “When I [first] created my sport coats, I thought of big clients in the sports and music industries who need to pop and stand out.”

While the clientele in Southwest Florida, his home turf, is much more subdued, they still appreciate Jean-Marie’s poppy patterns in the form of accessories. Between October 2019 and June 2020, he’s made about $17,000 in neckties, which retail online at peterjeanmarie.store for $125.

By focusing on designing neckties rather than the blazers he started out making, Jean-Marie is able to keep the cost of his single-person business down.

“After I graduated from college, I decided to start small and switch to neckties as the [vehicle] to break into stores,” he says.

Earlier this year, Jean-Marie nearly closed a deal to sell his line at a high-end hotel in Naples, but it fell through as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. He didn’t let it dampen his mood for long, though. Instead, he started making face masks out of antibacterial fabric, after his mother, who works in health care, alerted him of the shortage. He donated a little more than 1,000 face masks to local hospitals.

“That was my way of adjusting and putting my creativity to the test and not having to worry,” he says.

As with any creative career, though, it takes a bit of luck in addition to talent and hard work to become a household name. Fortunately, the Millennial Mogul has plenty of plans to expand his brand. He’s working on a womenswear line and planning to attend high-profile events, such as New York Fashion Week, in the future.

Plus, he has a special key to success that’s helped him endure the competitive fashion industry thus far: “Adjusting,” Jean-Marie says. “Life throws things at you, and you may not know how to react, but you just have to adjust.”