The closet has been designed to resemble a boutique, with a second level reached by a pair of staircases and two glass-top center islands, on which Petra displays tiny Missoni bikinis still in their pouches and a Juicy Couture velour tracksuit with bride emblazoned on the derriere in rhinestones. “I live in my Birkins,” she said, showing me a collection of 25 bags, including a hot pink one, a
yellow one, the purple one her father gave her when she was 16, and the black one James got her. “I’m running out of colors,” she said. “I want more, is the problem. They need to make me one.”
Near the Birkins is a shelf of purses Petra designed for her label, Stark, which launched in January: structured clutches in exotic skins (python, alligator) with heavy-duty hardware, crystal ornaments, and names like High Maintenance, Working Girl, and Morning After. They are sleek and attractive and reminiscent of Judith Leiber designs. Date Night is covered with yellow, pink, and orange crystals in an animal-print pattern. The bright palette—there is also acid green, hot pink, and tangerine—is an homage to Petra’s favorite artist, Tracy Emin, whose neon piece More Love hangs outside her bedroom door.
“I want to be known for my business,” Petra said when we settled back down in the living room. “Everyone always talks—because I’m rich and I’m privileged, and I understand that. At the end of the day, I don’t need to work, and I think it’s good that I have the drive and willpower to get up and do something in the morning even though I don’t need to. No one ever talks about the good in me; they just say that I’m spoiled.” She went on, “Yes, I have money, and I understand that, and I work. And I think anybody else in my position wouldn’t say no if they had the opportunity to live the way that I live.”
Petra’s creative ambition is the sand in her pockets. After attending Frances Holland School in London, she was accepted by Central St. Martins college, a prestigious art school whose fashion alumni include Stella McCartney, Hussein Chalayan, and Phoebe Philo. But instead of attending, Petra decided to start Form, a high-end men’s wear line inspired by the sportiness of Formula One. She hired someone she described to me only as “a patternmaker”—the famous Savile Row bespoke tailor Edward Sexton, who helped launch Stella McCartney’s career. (Sexton was Paul McCartney’s tailor and designed his suit for the cover of Abbey Road; he was Bernie Ecclestone’s tailor, too.) Form debuted at Harrods in the fall of 2008 and folded just over a year later. “I learned so much—it was like, Why do I need to go to school?” Petra said of the experience.