Being a keen wearer of shirts, I’m always looking out for new, exciting and innovative interpretations of the classic men’s staple…and that’s where this week’s interview comes in! palmer//harding is a men’s and women’s designer label, created by Levi Palmer and Matthew Harding , focusing on bringing directional design to a traditionally neglected garment in the wardrobe, the shirt! Below is an interview with one half of the brand, Levi Palmer along with a selection of photos from the Men’s AW12 collection.
So, tell me a little bit about the brand, how it began and when and what you are trying to create?
We met at Central Saint Martin’s in 2007, Matthew graduated BA in 2008 followed by womenswear MA in 2010, and I graduated BA Menswear in 2009. We had always collaborated on university projects but it wasn’t until we graduated and were working as freelance designers that we actually started thinking about working together in a more concrete capacity. We developed the concept over the period of a year before actually launching it. We’re both thorough researchers and I guess we really wanted to know everything we could about the whole process and concept before stepping into it.
I’m a true advocate of men wearing shirts…but why did you select shirting as the garment of choice when creating the brand, how are shirts important to you?
For us shirts felt rather neglected in the design spectrum, and we felt it presented a blank canvas for us to apply our aesthetic to. Shirts are also very much based in tradition and tailoring so it is great to push creativity beyond boundaries that tradition has set.
You launched Palmer/Harding at SS12 London Fashion Week which is pretty exciting and great for exposure, how did that come about?
Matthews MA graduate collection, which we both worked on, had garnered a good amount of attention resulting in a collaboration through TOPSHOP and a lot of attention in international press. When we decided that were going to start Palmer//Harding Matthew was fortunate enough to have gained a mentor in Sarah Mower, who gave us suggestions and advice on what steps we needed to take in order to launch the brand successfully. Without her it would not have been possible.
Now I love shirting, so can you tell me what influenced your designs for the AW12 collection, whether it is colour, fit, proportions or your use of directional design?
We felt that some of the details in our SS13 had not been explored to their full potential and wanted to carry some of those concepts forward for AW12. Details like the spiral pleats, which are now somewhat of a signature, and the mathematical corrugated pleats were developed further in AW12. However we positioned these details against research which varied from artist Bruno Walpoth to photographer George Platt Lynnes and archival antique shirting to create something that felt as it had evolved from the season prior.
Having looked at your collection I love the amount of interesting design features on your shirts, I feel like the more you look at the shirts the more kind of interesting things you see…could you explain maybe one or two of these features from your AW12 collection which you feel are most innovative?
Going back to our spiral pleat I believe this is probably the most interesting. Ultimately it is a play on the way that traditional pleats are applied. With the spiral pleat its really several pleats placed mathematically over each other to create a gradual radiating effect. The initial pleat took several days to develop and we have been perfecting it slightly each season as we notice it acts differently depending on the grain of fabric or position on the body that it is placed.
What is the set up like between the two of you regarding creativity and vision for a forthcoming collection?
We both research and design together but obviously we have differing backgrounds and interests. So when we research we individually pull images that inspire us and then we look over the other images and edit them so that the end result is a culmination of the two visions. This is also how we work when designing.
If you had to pick one type of shirt that you have created, from any of your previous collections that could be defined as your ‘classic’ shirt which one would it be and can you describe it for me?
It would have to be our spiral pleated men’s polo from SS12; it is a classic poplin polo except for an asymmetric spiral pleat at the front neck. It gives a considered casualness to a designer piece
What are your thoughts on the current market for men’s shirts and where does your brand sit within this?
With menswear it is necessary that you allow the end consumer to feel comfortable and discrete as men tend to not be peacocks. In that respect it’s difficult for many young brands to find a voice in today’s market as there are already so many great distinct brands for men. I think that the challenge for any young menswear brand is finding that voice while still creating a desirable garment. For us it is possible as we remain focused on a singular garment and think how it will fit and hold its own in the many men’s wardrobes that are already on the market.
Would you ever consider working on a different garment type…or do you feel it’s better to do one thing well, than trying to do lots of different things?
I think it is always better to do one thing well and wait for a demand for growth; otherwise it’s easy to lose focus. Of course it might be great to build into a huge lifestyle brand eventually but for the foreseeable future were happy just creating fantastic shirting.
What type of guy would you like to see wearing palmer//harding?
I think our man understand the importance of sartorial traditions but realises that breaking traditions on occasion is just as important as following them. It takes a guy with this understanding of the classic who also has enough courage to face future traditions.
So, what’s next for the brand?
Currently everything seems to be going to plan, so for now we are just trying to enjoy the present.
I find palmer//harding a really exciting new brand and it’s nice to see such a unique and refreshing take on the ‘shirt’. You see so many brands making the same old thing that it’s not until someone does something different that it makes you appreciate that there are creative’s out there distilling there time into revitalising a particular garment.
I attended Clerkenwell Design Week earlier this week and as I was walking around the exhibiting brands looking at all the inspiring and innovative design, it made me think of palmer//harding, why? Because to me palmer//harding embody many of the same qualities – innovation, directional design, reinterpreting ‘classics’ and the skill to create.
To find out more about palmer//harding then visit their website at: www.palmerharding.4ormat.com