Palm Angels: The Skate-Inspired Brand To Buy Now
The high-end streetwear that rappers and sports stars love is now available on MR PORTER.
You may not have heard of Mr Francesco Ragazzi, but if you’re at all interested in streetwear, you’ve probably seen his clothes. Palm Angels, the designer’s skate-inspired brand, is forging a link between cult streetwear and high-end clothing, and its signature sportswear has been seen on everyone from rappers A$AP Rocky and Wizkid to basketball player Mr Shabazz Muhammad. Born out of a photography book of the same name that Mr Ragazzi published in 2014, Palm Angels is driving the conversation about streetwear, and is new to MR PORTER this month. To find out more, we spoke to Mr Ragazzi about where Palm Angels started, how the label combines a love for American skate culture with the designer’s Italian heritage and why a global outlook is crucial to the brand.
What is Palm Angels all about and what inspired it?
Palm Angels is my interpretation of American culture. It started with a photography project I did a few years ago where I made a photography book, also called Palm Angels, and I kind of used the same approach with the clothes, to see something through my own lens. In that case, it was skateboarding. I wanted to create a visual essay on skateboarders, and this is exactly what I’m trying to do with Palm Angels. I’m taking something from American culture and trying to interpret it in my own way. I’m Italian, so it’s like a contrast between that and America.
What got you interested in America and skate culture?
I’d always wanted to be a fashion photographer, and I was in love with California before even going there. From the moment I was there, with the light and the palm trees, it was amazing. One day I went to Venice Beach and saw some guys skating, and I fell in love with the authenticity of these people. From there the photobook happened very slowly. I started taking a few pictures, then a few more, then I got a better camera and then it got to the point where it was like, “Oh, wow. Maybe this is a nice project to develop.” I went back and worked on this book for four years, and it went from there.
How did the book evolve into a brand?
The book was a starting point. It was my own manifesto and my creative approach for what I was working on. It was my dream to turn that into clothes. For the book I collaborated with Pharrell Williams and Mykita sunglasses and did lots of different projects. I did it as a photography project, but also started thinking about what would come out of it. And then I was lucky enough to find my business partner and started working on a clothing line. In the beginning, it was much smaller than this and more connected to the book, but that’s basically the way it started.
Where does Palm Angels sit in the current fashion climate?
I think that streetwear right now is what fashion is. If you look at where Louis Vuitton is at the moment, with Virgil Abloh as the menswear designer, it’s like there’s no difference between streetwear and fashion. The difference between big brands and brands like mine is the way we talk to the customer. With Palm Angels, there’s an individual behind the brand – me. In a big brand, it’s usually the designer, but the designer doesn’t manage the Instagram and talk directly to the customer. Communication in general is almost more important than the product itself. In a way, I hate the term streetwear. It’s more about having the mentality to be closer to the customer. I really believe in being close to your consumer and Instagram is such a valid platform for that.
The brand is a hit with celebrities and musicians. How important is that connection?
I design with that idea of having my clothes on a singer or rapper at a concert or in a music video. Some pieces are made exactly for that reason. The music is like a visual for me. I can visualise it. It’s the beginning of everything and I can really start with my creative process. It starts and ends with music. When I see rappers and singers wearing my clothes, it’s like something that’s supposed to be.
You said the brand is a mixture of your Italian sensibility and American culture. How does that manifest itself in the clothes?
The Italian part of my collection is about quality fabrics, the materials in general and the craftsmanship. Most of the clothes are made in Italy and I love to choose fabrics and get inspiration from fabrics, and maybe to give the fabric a different face, too. I’ll take a really nice wool from Italy and give it a sporty look rather than a more formal one, for example. I believe that my work is made of things that are really not supposed to be together. This is where I’ve found the biggest inspiration.
How does that go down in your native Italy?
Everybody there assumes I’m American. Most of the time, Italian kids are surprised another Italian is behind Palm Angels. But my brand is international. It’s not about being big in Italy and unknown in the rest of the world. I want Palm Angels to be a mix of cultures, and that’s what’s happening in the world right now.