“I’m going to be like Prince,” Peter Robinson boldly announced between bites of his mammoth tuna burger. “Bring back stilettos for men.”
It was Saturday at the Corner Shop Café near NYU, and I was having brunch with Robinson, the promotion coordinator for Complex and one inimitable, fearless dresser. There is no one quite like Robinson, or at least, no one who looks quite like him. A fixture at every fashion event from Patricia Field openings to Armani PR fests, the Bowie-worshipping, model-adoring events promoter is a contradiction in terms—a man who works for a hip-hop clothing magazine yet doesn’t own a single pair of sneakers, preferring the extra height he receives from his exotic-skin cowboy boots. Envision a glam-obsessed clotheshorse, swallowed whole by Sunglass Hut—Robinson adores shades and even dons them indoors—and you’ve gotten closer to his aesthetic. Even when dressed for this rainy, casual Saturday, he strikes an indelible image: Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses, mini ‘fro, massive $5 cocktail ring with a stupendous yellow stone, white plastic button that says “Back Like Cooked Crack,” a pair of Diesel legwarmers he’s fashioned into elbow-length gloves, and—what’s this? —a Naomi Campbell t-shirt?
Pushing aside his red hoodie, Robinson reveals a decorated black tee with a photo of the pugnacious supermodel on the front. “Weight, a clothing company, custom made this shirt for me, because they know I like supermodels,” he explains. “Whenever I go out, I try to be seen with ones that are 5’10 or over, because I’m 5’5.” He loves the feeling of them towering over him, and indeed, we have seen him out and about with the genetically blessed. The models do, in fact, loom over Robinson, like elegant mommy giraffes. Though Robinson styles some of his celebrity friends, including Victoria’s Secret model Jessica White, he doesn’t like to be referred to as a stylist. He believes the job of a stylist is to dress celebrities in the latest trends, whereas he prefers to add his own individual stamp. The man lives by more than a few style rules: “Purple is the new black.” “I’m never without gloves.” “I get dressed to go to the grocery store.” “I don’t wear bling.” He grabs the brass whistle around his neck— “Lulu Frost makes all my jewelry,” he boasts, describing the jewelry designer’s most popular work, a necklace fashioned from an old Plaza Hotel room number and antique chains.
Robinson diligently maintains his appearance with twice weekly visits to the salon, but the man who goes to any length for fashion has had more than one scary encounter as a result of his uncompromising devotion to style.
“I was arrested in June,” he confesses. On the way home to Detroit to attend his brother’s high school graduation, he got stopped at LaGuardia. “I was walking through the checkpoint with my two Louis Vuitton cases,” he says, when he was pulled aside. The luggage scan revealed that he was carrying a registered deadly weapon, which also happened to be one of his favorite fashion accessories: a pair of Swarovski-crystal-studded brass knuckles. “They said, ‘Sir, do you know you’re carrying brass knuckles?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, they’re covered in stones, they’re really dope. Want to see them?’ When they uncovered the goods, carefully wrapped in tissue paper, the cops burst out laughing. He pleaded with them, but to no avail—Robinson spent an unglamorous day and night in Queens Central Booking, staring with horror at the delectable bologna-sandwich meal.
Apparently certain explanations don’t fly with the NYPD. “I kept saying to them,” he says, still ruing the experience, ‘It’s for fashion! It’s for fashion!!'”