For Francesco Ragazzi, it’s all about contrasts. “The Italian part is the tailoring and the laid-back is definitely American,” explains the Italian designer and founder of the new cult menswear brand Palm Angels. In Ragazzi’s sure hands, double-button blazers and suit trousers get a fresh yet refined twist, with bold and unusual details, tongue-in-cheek prints and exaggerated silhouettes. This easy-going skater style, with a luxe, sophisticated touch, has been central to the Palm Angels aesthetic ever since its debut FW15 collection.
It was one photo – of an angelic blonde-haired skater floating mid-air against the sunlight – that sparked the idea behind Palm Angels in Ragazzi’s mind. “Skateboarding was never really associated with art or fashion and this is what I wanted to do,” Ragazzi tells us in January. While acting as the art director of outerwear brand Moncler, Ragazzi may seem an unlikely cheerleader for the freewheeling skater lifestyle. But Palm Angels’ unusual provenance has become its greatest strength, combining the best of fabled Italian tailoring and production with a winningly nostalgic eye for American skate culture.
Ragazzi developed an enduring fascination with LA and the West Coast skater culture, a passion that culminated in the creation of his label two years ago while continuing to work at Moncler. “I grew up travelling between the U.S. and Italy and my biggest influences in fashion are Ralph Lauren and Versace,” the designer admits. Along the way, Ragazzi created a photography book in 2014– also called “Palm Angels” – featuring his own sumptuous photos of Venice Beach skaters, which he describes as a “manifesto” for the brand.
The Spring ’16 collection takes the Americana theme even further, featuring Californian iconography, distressed jeans and a main tricolour pattern of red, white and blue. “My biggest inspiration was the ‘90s meeting the ‘70s,” Ragazzi explains. Playful elements like the marihuana print or USA logo on sweatshirts are elevated with precise tailoring and craftsmanship. Details including the bold gold buttons on blazers give the collection a slightly preppy, ‘70s vibe. Prepare to look sharp, dude.