Creative director of Palm Angels, Francesco Ragazzi, is a man of few words. For an art director trained in visuals, it makes sense that his work would speak louder than his words. That is not to say that he is not interested in the narrative, but rather that he prefers his work to speak for itself. As part of the new guard of multi-hyphenate creatives like Heron Preston, Virgil Abloh and Matthew Williams, Ragazzi’s work is defined by distilling the world that he inhabits.
Ragazzi might not have wanted to be a fashion designer when he started his journey (he initially wanted to pursue fashion photography), but he has since come full circle with the publication of his photography book. The brand that grew from a series of merchandise sold to promote his book has kick-started a label that melds his love of Americana with his Italian sensibilities.
ESQ: What sparked your interest in fashion?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: My family has always been working in the fashion industry. I wanted to be a fashion photographer, but my career in fashion began as an intern at Moncler because I couldn’t find the right place for fashion photography.
ESQ: What made you go from designing at Moncler to starting Palm Angels?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: At a certain point, I felt the need for my project. I started with this book and slowly this book became a collection. First, it was merchandise that came with the book before evolving into a full-fledged collection.
ESQ: Why the decision to release merchandise together with the book?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: I wasn’t a known photographer so I wanted a way to push the book. And that’s what I did, creating sunglasses and T-shirts with other brands. And that helped me to market the book. The demand for the merchandise started to grow, becoming a bigger collection until it became the Palm Angels that you see here today.
ESQ: Why the name Palm Angels?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: Palm Angels came from the title of the photography project, which became the book that launched my label. I was taking pictures of skaters in Los Angeles; they were skating under palm trees and they looked like angels to me.
ESQ: Is it fair to say that skating has a big influence on your design codes at Palm Angels?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: Yes. I used to skate a lot, but I don’t have time for it anymore.
ESQ: What is it about skating that you enjoy?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: There is an authenticity to it. I am drawn to the free-spirit nature of the skateboarders.
ESQ: Is there a big contrast between the skate scenes in Milan and Los Angeles?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: I think Palm Angels is a mix of Milan and Los Angeles. Los Angeles is laid-back. But the Milan part of the brand is expressed in my love for craftsmanship, fabrics and the way we do things. Palm Angels is an expression of the contrast between the two.
ESQ: Is there anything about Singapore that stands out to you?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: I like the vegetation here. The fact that everything is so perfect, there is so much greenery. It is modern, yet it perfectly co-exists with nature.
ESQ: Do you know that Singapore has a lot of palm trees as well?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: Yes (laughs), I saw. That’s amazing.
ESQ: Tell us more about the pop-up store.
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: We have a very long working relationship with Surrender. They asked us to do this pop-up to launch the pre-autumn 2019 collection.
ESQ: What is the inspiration behind the collection?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: It is the first time we did a pre-fall collection. I tried to divide it into a few themes. The concept was something more like a department store in a way, where there are dedicated selections. One of the obvious ones was the ‘Kill the teddy’ theme, which I like. Other themes which you can see are the ones where we interpreted the bandana prints and alien graphics. It is more like a commercial output of our autumn/winter 2019 collection.
ESQ: What was the theme of the autumn/winter 2019 collection?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: The show was presented in New York so I wanted to bring some of my Italian sensibilities to New York. So the collection was about being sartorial, mixing it with sportswear.
ESQ: I see that tailoring is still a big part of Italian culture.
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: It is! I have a lot of love for the sartorial part of the dressing. I love the craftsmanship and the care that the Italians put into making clothes.
ESQ: Do you think tailoring is making a comeback?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: Listen, I think that streetwear was a big trend. It is a reflection of the change in culture, people want to be more casual, more comfortable and that is very important. I don’t think that tailoring is making a comeback. There was a big boom because streetwear wasn’t here before, but people want to be comfortable, they want to hear a hoodie, a T-shirt or a tracksuit.
ESQ: Does the massive change in weather influence the way we dress?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: For sure, but to me, it is more a reflection of the change in culture. Even the white-collar workers, people who work in banks, do not want to wear a tie and jacket anymore.
ESQ: Do you miss photography?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: Yes, definitely. I still try to do it when I can, but I don’t have time for it. I wish I could do another book.
ESQ: Do you think that the role of a designer has changed?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: That’s for sure. For now, we should be more like an art director because you need to know about what is going in the world—from music, photography, fashion and art. It is not just clothing anymore. I think we need to be connected to the world that we are living in.
ESQ: How do you meld all these references together and how do you keep finding inspiration?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: I always start from American culture and I interpret it through my Italian mentality. There are many clichés in American culture that can be reinterpreted—Western, Hawaiian and skateboarding.
ESQ: I always felt that there is a big difference between our idea of American culture versus what it is. I feel that the reality of it is much more overwhelming than our idea of it.
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: That’s exactly how I felt when I went to Los Angeles for the first time!
ESQ: How do you feel the role of a designer will evolve in the future?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: It is more than designing clothes, it is about creating the music for the show, creating pop-ups around the world. You need to know a lot more than just the creation of the garments and be interested in a lot more.
ESQ: If you were not a fashion designer or photographer, what would you be doing?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: I might work in finance. It’s something that I am finding myself interested in recently.
ESQ: What would you like your legacy to be?
FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: An inspiration.People who know my story know that this all started with an internship. So I think it is interesting for me to give hope to others to be successful.
Palm Angels' pre-fall 2019 collection is available at Surrender stores.