Whether it’s the navy Moncler, the metallic satin Amazon Orolay, or the basic black Burlington, down-filled puffy coats are the most important piece of our winter weather look. Sometimes we pair them with Uggs. Sometimes it’s Timberlands. Other times it’s leather knee-length boots or ankle-length booties. But the bubble coat is key. So much so that its silhouette has become somewhat ubiquitous.
But one locally bred designer has made the billowy zip-up a bit sleeker and a whole lot hotter. William Walker, the 29-year-old founder of the Banni Peru clothing line, introduced the Deno coat (pronounced “DEE-noh”) back in 2017. Since its debut, the Deno — which comes in high-shine hues of Kelly green, candy apple-red and citrus orange — has been big-upped by celebrities including rappers Fabolous, Dave East, and Dej Loaf, and singer Teyana Taylor. Even Cardi B has been spotted in a Banni Peru.
These days, you’d be hard pressed to walk around town without seeing the unisex coat, with its signature tassels swinging in the icy, winter wind. The coat retails online, and now, in Walker’s brand new Banni Peru boutique, located on 52nd Street in the heart of West Philly.
Pieces here range from about $50 for a soft, cotton T-shirt to $400 for a mixed-media coat. And thanks to an Instagram following of more than 51,000, Banni Peru pieces sell out within days of dropping online.
“Instagram posts have changed my life,” said Walker from a couch in the center of his 1,600-square-foot store. Walker painted the walls a bold orange — it’s his favorite color — and the racks are full of an array of puffy coats, denim jackets, sweatsuits with skinny joggers, and skintight women’s jumpsuits. There is a small selection of children’s clothes and, because Walker is deeply in love with his French bulldog, a collection of doggy fashions, too.
But what he’s really known for is the coat. “The Deno coat is my No. 1-selling item,” he said.
Walker’s entrée into fashion was anything but conventional.
In 2006, when he was just 15, he distressed denim for the likes of Jill Scott and Musiq Soul Child at Kulture shop, the now-defunct Baltimore Avenue boutique once owned by Fatin Dantzler and Aja Gordon — also known as Kindred Family Soul. “I would distress the jeans, paint them, add holes to them and make about $60 a pair," Walker said. Not bad for a teenager. Walker would also design and make suits for young men in the neighborhood who went to prom. This is how he learned how to tailor.
After graduating from PET Charter High School, Walker took his sewing machine with him to Cheyney University, where he continued to design suits for extra money. At Cheyney, he pledged the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and won the Mr. Cheyney University pageant. After graduating, he took a job in the marketing department at CNN in Atlanta, but hated it and quit after just four months. To make ends meet, he worked at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, but it wasn’t long before he realized he wanted to return to designing. Banni Peru was born.
Walker launched the brand in 2016 — while he was still living in Atlanta — with a line of silk-screened T-shirts. He promoted them on Instagram, and they sold out. He started designing sweatsuits and hoodies. Those sold out, too.
In 2017, he designed the Deno coat (which is named after a friend), and eventually started to host pop-up shops/trunk shows in Atlanta and Philadelphia. Through his Atlanta connections, he met stylists for Teyana Taylor and Fabolous, who began requesting pieces. And it wasn’t long before celebrities were posting photos on the 'gram of themselves wearing Banni Peru.
“I told you, posts really changed my life,” he said again, emphatically.
Walker has hosted runway shows in Philadelphia, New York, and London. Like many emerging designers, he drops his collections on social media and often sells out during the presale period. He opened up the West Philly store in late fall.
He still lives in Atlanta — the opportunities to meet celebrities there, he said, is crucial to growing his brand — but he travels back to Philly several times a month to keep an eye on his store.
“I’m proud that my store is on one of Philadelphia’s most iconic streets — 52nd Street,” Walker said. “It’s my home. I’ll always be a Philly fashion designer.”