“As soon as I stepped out, I saw the sun and palm trees behind it and I instantly fell in love,” says Francesco Ragazzi, Art Director of Moncler and designer of Palm Angels. A reference to Americana, California in particular, it’s a sentiment that bodes well for the brand’s latest collaboration.
8 MONCLER PALM ANGELS is more than a logical next step for the brands, it’s a playful take on classic basketball-era silhouettes that steer away from skate culture in search of authenticity between two of the biggest names in fashion. Ragazzi has found it. And after years of success, it’s clear there’s more to his vision than colourful tracksuits and casual luxury. 8 MONCLER PALM ANGELS is just the latest example, and our interview tells the story of the collection in his own words.
MoM: What brought you to America originally? What was it about the country?
I have always been attracted by American culture and imagery. I remember that a long time ago before my first trip to L.A. it was something I would always imagine in my head. But when I first got there it was more than I ever expected. I still remember the exact feeling when coming out of the airport. As soon as I stepped out, I saw the sun and palm trees behind it and I instantly fell in love. I consider it as my second home, where I find inspiration as I am naturally attracted.
MoM: Palm Angels has progressed outside of just ‘American culture’, where do you find inspiration in today’s American culture? What do you think is the importance of a distinctly American identity in fashion?
As you know Palm Angels, before being a brand, was born as a photography book, featuring black-and-white photography of the Los Angeles skateboard scene, which I did as a photographer in 2011 and launched in 2014. At the time I was led to make the book by my passion for photography as an art of expression and that laid-back Los Angeles vibe that you could only live and authentically experience in places like Venice beach. Since I was a child, I travelled a lot with my parents, especially in the States. I have grown up with those Americana images and styles of life, those of west and east costs particularly, that I naturally infused in the brand and that continue to inspire me.
MoM: Were you able to spend much time in the US over the last few years? A pandemic wouldn’t have helped.
The pandemic forced all of us to freeze our habits. We’ve lived almost two years as we were suspended in time. Like everyone, I had to give up travelling. But as soon as it was possible the first trip I took was to L.A. As an Italian creative I am genuinely attracted by the American culture and subcultures and Palm Angels in a way represents a bridge where a specific aesthetic linked to my home country’s sartorial codes and fabrics blends express through the collections a cultural signifier of some sort that unifies the two countries.
MoM: Music has always been an inspiration for you (Bob Marley, etc.) but what about American sports? We see it’s a big influence in FW22.
The inspiration behind this collection is linked to iconic American sports. When I started to design the collection, I had in mind a series of sports uniforms worn off the sporting field, a non-uniform uniform interpreted through the distinctive filter of Palm Angels where Californian culture and its style of life remains a sort of fil rouge: its laidback mindset and the constant state of summer.
MoM: You’ve said that you often have a musician in mind when designing a collection, did you have an athlete in mind for this collection?
When I started to think about this collection, I had in mind the iconicity of typical American sports with its distinctive vintage take. The imagery went back to the ’70s and ’80s populated by NBA legends like Larry Bird,
Magic Johnson and Rick Barry to name but a few.
MoM: What led to the rethinking of staples such as the puffer with Cordura patches? What about the flame motif?
As for Palm Angels, items are created by shifting materials and details from one garment to another, in unusual ways. Every collection starts from an exploration of clothing archetypes that I rethink to turn things around. That’s the creative process behind the cropped puffer that comes with Cordura patches on the shoulders or the Palm Angels graphic emblems like flames and stars turn into precious intarsia on sporty pieces.
MoM: Do you have any favourite pieces in 8 MONCLER PALM ANGELS?
I love them all. By keeping our authenticity each item is part of a whole project that reflects the consistency of both brands.
MoM: How did you land the name ‘Uniforms of non-uniformity’ for this collection?
The word uniform stands for something that presents no variations. And this is exactly the most interesting aspect of a creative: being able to create garments that only appear to be no different from a certain type of uniform, such as the American sports uniforms that inspired me for this collection.
MoM: In this season, you brought Tod’s x 8 Moncler Palm Angels, could you share the cooperation process between the team and Tods?
Tod’s iconic design was my starting point when I began this project. I have great admiration for what the brand stands for: the values it expresses are linked to our culture of beauty and the Made in Italy. Behind a brand like Tod’s, there is the dedication, the research, and the craftsmanship of a team of skilled people not only technically, but also humanly, that transfer in what they do all their passion. Having had the opportunity to work on this project has been a great honour for me. The Gommino is part of my experience, and I approached the design of this collection with respect, adding elements of contrast while retaining the essence.
MoM: What’s your favourite part of the process when collaborating with another brand?
When collaborating with a brand like Moncler or Tod’s for me it is as I continue to study to learn. Palm Angels is a young brand and having the possibility to be in contact with such giants is a huge value for me, also as they give me the chance to express my point of view as a curator. Curation is certainly the right way to define my approach and I often use an image to describe what I do: many different things that magically come together by the simple fact of being one next to the other.
MoM: The first thing people often think of with Palm Angels is the tracksuit. How do you keep the designs fresh?
The tracksuit is what I define as a brand icon, but it is not the only one. As an icon, it is an integral part of the brand as a sort of signature that I continue to reimagine each season without changing the characteristic features.
MoM: It’s been 7 years since Palm Angels was founded, could you review this journey for us and share your plans?
Since its inception, I have approached my work at Palm Angels in a disciplined manner as I want to be continuously translating into the brand a precise philosophy, a vision based on explicit values that reference a deep sense of belonging expressed by freedom, individuality, and exploration in the broader sense.
To me, Palm Angels is about having an authentic language based on shared values, in which those who follow the brand recognize themselves. Going forward my dream is to make the brand language more and more distinctive and distinguishable, a language spoken by Palm Angels communities that can be used also as a sort of adjective, immediately recognizable, to define an accurate meaning when you say à la Palm Angels.
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