The Fashion Show is Not Enough Anymore

That streetwear has infiltrated and changed fashion’s trajectory – as a field of study or as an industry – is nowadays well past the point of discussion, regardless of what any editor, designer, or buyer might say. It took a while for it to be taken as seriously as it took itself – something like four decades – and its increasing influence ruffled more than a few feathers along the way, but like anything else in fashion, streetwear evolved season after season, slowly but surely finding its place.

Francesco Ragazzi at the Palm Angels Fall/Winter 2019 show in New York. Photo by Regis Colin Berthelier for NOWFASHION.

A brand that represents one of those recent evolutions is Palm Angels, which was launched in 2014 by photographer and former Moncler art director Francesco Ragazzi. “Technically,” he shared with us after the show, “the brand really started in 2013 as a photographic documentation of LA’s skater culture.” Around that time, Milan-born Ragazzi started travelling to Los Angeles to document the skater scene around Venice Beach, a project which then turned into a book titled ‘Palm Angels,’ published by Rizzoli in 2014, and subsequently evolved into the brand it has become today in 2015.

Stemming from an Italian’s point of view on American culture and subculture, Palm Angels’ became a unique label by merging an infatuation for skate-inspired apparel and accessories, an appreciation for sartorial codes, and the desire to use clothing as cultural signifiers. Eventually, the brand garnered enough attention to land on Italy’s catwalk and resulted in diverse collaborations with brands like Moncler and more recently Under Armour, or artists such as Swedish House Mafia or Playboi Carti.

Showing for the first time at NYFW, the designer found inspiration in, of all things, hunting and fishing. The label's Fall 2019 collection offered a range of pieces such a men's coats and jackets, women's skirts, and accessories which, much like traditional hunting and fishing apparel, featured multiple large pockets, over-sized zips, and mesh details. The collection also included, among other pieces, men's shirts that featured traditional equestrian prints, tailored jackets, a few tiny dresses sculpted in leather, embellished hoodies, a new line of sneakers inspired by cross-country ski boots, and an array of leather purses and bags.

We caught up with Ragazzi after the show, who kindly took the time to talk with us about why Palm Angels is coming to New York, how it’s all becoming more personal, and why subverting rules is necessary.

Backstage at the Palm Angels Fall/Winter 2019 show in New York. Photos by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.

This is your first time showing at NYFW, even if you’ve showed many times over in Milan. Why New York?

I wanted a new energy. Milan feels like home, and I wanted to get this feeling of trying something else, to play outside the comfort zone, you know? Palm Angels is a global brand, and I feel like New York is a great place to show my brand, to bring my vision and to tell my story.

I also want to speak to my customers everywhere, to have a relationship with kids in Milano but also here in New York, so it made complete sense to come here. I really want to feel connected to different cities and see what’s going on there. Now the world is my playground, especially because of the digital and social media era we’re in…

In Fall 2017, you coated the runway with images of a palm tree on fire, which many, in context of some of the pieces echoing that motif, interpreted as a statement of anti-establishment frustration. Assuming that was your intent, do you still feel the same today?

Well, maybe…I had never thought about it that way. I guess it is a bit like that, yes, but in the sense that I want to do things my way. I don’t want to be too attached to the rules; it’s not me and I’ve always been that way…

Backstage at the Palm Angels Fall/Winter 2019 show in New York. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.

When you say that you don’t want to get tied down by rules, what do you mean by “rules”?

What’s written, like guidelines written by others who tell you what to do. I try to go beyond that, to redefine things, even if they’re small things or small decisions. But it’s important to redefine rules that limit things.

Like tonight’s show?

Yes, exactly, like tonight…people will interpret it as a fashion event and maybe come here with expectations, but to me it was not a fashion show. It was more like a concert, like a music show…a show for the brand, you know? You show clothes and you organize all this to do that, but it is good for the brand too. People attend shows to see products, but for me it’s not enough. For New York I wanted to do something that was true to the brand… The fashion show is a medium, but I want to interpret it my own way and I want to use it to create a powerful, recognizable label.

What was the inspiration for the collection?

It was a mix of what I like between sartorial and outerwear, with a sweeter perspective. But yeah, it’s an outerwear hunting and fishing concept. There is also an idea of practicality.

Is there any one piece that you feel that crystallizes the collection?

The fishing vest.

Backstage at the Palm Angels Fall/Winter 2019 show in New York. Photos by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.

It’s been four years since you launched the brand. Has the initial vision or drive changed since you first started?

Yes, I think so. I guess the more I go on and the more it feels like I’m doing something for myself. It feels less like brand now and more like something personal. Like I’m talking to you, I interact with my Instagram followers, I have a chance to meet my customers... I just posted on Instagram that we were giving away 20 tickets for tonight and we received like 6000 comments. Some of the people who won were in Italy and they flew in this morning just to come to the show, and then I met them. It’s crazy, you know? It feels amazing.