Peter Nygard was the “king of polyester,” a fashion industrialist who many people haven’t heard of — and much like Jeffrey Epstein, his anonymity allegedly made him the perfect predator. His alleged crimes against women and teenage girls flew under the radar for years, although the Canadian Nygard is currently awaiting extradition to the U.S. on charges that include sex trafficking and racketeering. A new documentary on Discovery+, “Unseamly,” delves into the allegations.
“When Epstein hit I was like ‘Okay, Peter’s day will come soon,’” said supermodel Beverly Peele during the documentary’s Discover+ panel at CTAM Winter 2021 Press Tour. “I knew his day would come.”
Kai Zen Bickle, Nygard’s son, said his father was built on a foundation of lies — he will only refer to his father as “Nygard” — and in May 2019 Bickle caught a glimpse of behavior that he describes as extremely troubling. “When the information came out I was already investigating and trying to figure out how to prove that he was really a predator,” he said. When Bickle continued to ask questions, people started to talk to him. He said would have come out sooner with his investigations but knew his father was a flight risk and didn’t want him fleeing the country. Instead, Bickle started working with the documentary: “I wanted to participate so the word could get out and more survivors could come forward,” he said.
Bickle said much of Nygard’s life was left hidden. “Our family split into groups as this was unfolding,” he said. “There was a wall of suppression of information; he was a master of deception,” Bickle said. To his family, he sold himself as a man who hated drugs, and was totally trustworthy around women and children. “What we’re dealing with right now is there are still people who are helping him…and those are the ones I’ve been at odds with,” he said. “People did not tell each other,” and secrets were unearthed, including the fact that Bickle had other siblings — a brother he found out about via the Canadian press.
“Nygard was seen as an incredibly successful brand,” said Canadian fashion columnist Donna Bishop. His innovations with software, manufacturing, and production efficiency caused him to stand out, though he failed to have the runway artistry of the likes of Yves St. Laurent. Part of why Nygard grew from 1995 to 2004 was creating distribution software that allowed for instant replenishment.
“The other element that he was masterful at was the cut of the clothing,” Bickle said. “It fit in a way that complemented a woman’s figure,” particularly women over 40. “There was a bit of a reputation that he was a creep…maybe he was the Canadian Hugh Hefner with his extravagance,” Bishop said. “He had a great blend of creative and analytical,” Bickle said.
“What enticed most of the victims of Nygard was the promise of bettering their lives and their careers, their careers taking off,” Peele said. “Having that fabulous, glamorous, Hollywood model life.” Someone with no knowledge of the industry could be easily lured in. “He will tell anyone what they need to hear,” Bickle said. “These victims, it is not their fault that they got lured in by him.”
Nygard had colleagues who would tell the victims what they needed to hear, and would also take advantage of loopholes to suppress information, the panelists said. “A lot of predators, they dangle things in front of their victims,” Peele said. “It’s like a fingerprint, it’s different for everyone, their reasoning.”
“Unseamly: The Investigation of Peter Nygard” is streaming now on Discovery+.
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