Many have attempted to blur the line between convention, fashion and gender, as far back as Rudi Gernriech in the sixties and seventies. This new generation of designers has seen no shortage of it, but no one has done it so exquisitely as Alejandro Gomez Palomo, founder and designer of the label PALOMO SPAIN. Launched in 2015 and based out of his home village of Posadas, Alejandro has taken the bull by its horns and forged his path into the scene. His campaigns and runway shows offer a transient liberation of coquettish and often devastatingly beautiful boys prancing around in a suggestive manor flaunting effeminate and luxurious creations. I caught up with the man of the hour to know more. He was warm and inviting as many Spaniards are, but there was something gentle and somewhat charismatic about him. We dove into the interview with the ease and familiarity of two old friends exchanging a few laughs along the way.
– Interviewed by Tilal Imani (@tilalimani)
T: You have a growing international fan base and have quickly become fashion’s darling boy. Through your collections you have communicated humour, fantasy, Romanticism and sex, what do we still not know about Aejandro Gomez Palomo that you would like to share with us?
A: I don’t know, I think I’m pretty clear. I express everything that I am through my collections but people probably think I’m much more glamorous, over the top rich person but what people don’t know is that I live here in a village a humble, normal life doing the same things I’ve always done even before all this fame happened. I’m much more down to earth than what my collection shows.
T: Would you then say you are more of an introvert as opposed to your more extrovert collections?
A: Not really, if you get to spend a little more time with me you’ll quickly see I’m not an introvert. I definitely show a side of me through the collections that is everything I’d dream of being, the boy I want to be or see every morning but there is still a side of me that can’t be shown through clothes that is more personal that you get to see when you know me.
T: You don’t think in terms of gender and social construction when you design, do you recall when you first acquired this perspective or embraced this ideology?
A: I think it was when I was studying in London College of Fashion while working at Liberty department store. I was learning from two disciplines, the practical technical menswear in school but then also the couture approach to womenswear and luxury from Dior, Chanel and Schiaparelli at work. I could see my passion and approach is couture but I was studying menswear. It was that moment when I naturally started joining my passions for couture, all the collectible and historical pieces (with the modernity and technical side) and of course the body of menswear that I was studying. From there it started happening, the boy I design for can be identified from my graduate collection until now.
T: There is a recurring theme of diving into the past in all your collections, which historical period or fashion era would you say is your favourite and why?
A: Well, I’m not sure if I have a favourite, I very flexible. Every moment in fashion history has got its relevance for one reason or another and for every period we’ve got a designer or group of designers who are relevant at their time. We can love the sixties with Courrèges and Paco Rabanne making changes, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be my favourite fashion time. I guess my favourites are probably the twenties, fifties and seventies but I’m not sure because fashion designers tend to change their views over time. Sometimes I can be obsessed with the seventies, during my studies for example but then I’m attracted to Elizabethan or Victorian fashion at the same time, I’m not afraid of travelling into time and then mixing all these references. My collections travel through time and fashion history, putting it all together and designing from a grander menu the projecting it into the present or future in the way I want people to dress. There is always a freedom and mixture of references that are going through my mind at the time and that’s what makes it special, there isn’t a clear reference as a result.
T: How do you feel about more women buying your clothes than men?
A: I feel completely okay with it, I mean I design for men and that’s what I studied so that is what I do, I feel a closeness to men way more than women. For me it’s a much more natural process to design for men. I don’t know how to do it for women directly but I’m completely happy that women want to wear it as well and they buy it. Shops buy a lot for women but believe it or not ninety percent of our direct and online customers are men because there is a gap in the menswear market that we are filling, so there is a bit of both.
T: The male anatomy differs from the female, whether its wider shoulder or the positioning of the waist line, so how do your garments fit when women wear them and do you factor this discrepancy into your designs?
A: It is not something I pay attention to during the design but as it happens there are two different ways of approaching women wearing Palomo. The first way is that women wear the designs like men, you get the feeling of dressing up in your boyfriend’s clothes while those very clothes are something that the girl would generally wear, so there is a bit of eroticism when women wear pieces originally made for men. Of course, they won’t fit as good as they should on men because the anatomy is completely different. Secondly, in an effort to reach woman as well we are now adapting some of the pieces to womenswear too.
T: Are you then considering creating a women’s line down the road?
A: I’m sort of doing it right now as an adaption of my men’s line but I don’t want to do it as another line nor do I plan to do a womenswear show or anything like that and I don’t think I should, reason being my client and myself. We have been doing man and been putting so much effort into changing the vision of menswear so it would be pointless to do womenswear even though we are doing it “behind the scene” let’s say.
T: John Galliano seems to come up in a lot of your interview as one of you biggest inspirations or designers you admire. I was wondering, what about Jean Paul Gaultier? Not only is he a couturier but one of the first to blend gender norms in modern day fashion.
A: Of course, I feel very close to the story of Gaultier and really admire him. People come to me and say I’ve done something too new or surprising but it has been done before by Gaultier in the eighties and nineties putting men in skirts and things like that. Maybe not as the main focus but he played with that already. We have very similar stories but also, there is a lot of humour in his work which I identify with. He works in a couture way which I love and admire, I would love to get to that level at some point in my career. So, of course I identify with him and I want him to think of me when he retires from Gaultier, I think I’m the right person to continue this brand there is no other designer that shares as many values that I do with him these days. I hope he is thinking of me already.
T: Let’s hope he reads this interview
A: Yeah Yeah! well I’ll tell him as soon as I meet him. I met with the Spanish company that owns Gaultier called Puig and every time I see them I say I know it’s too early in my career but we need to make this happen.
T: Your clothes evoke desire, excitement and eroticism. Would you say you are a sexual person by nature?
A: I think we all are, sex is a necessity of our lives and we all need to reflect that and not be afraid of it anymore. I guess I am a very sexual person myself, but I think there are a lot more sexual people out there than me. So, nothing out of normal and I’m a very romantic person as well. I love beauty and I’ve chosen this job because it makes me enjoy love. It gives me a chance to get inspired by all these beautiful boys and being surrounded by them all the time. You know I met my boyfriend because he started modelling for me. There is always love, passion, sex and everything involved when you meet people and the relationship evolves. That is what gets it moving and that’s what inspires you at the end of the day.
T: You are always surrounded by those boys, some are friends and some have become muses. You seem to have built and cultivated a community of collaborators around you. Would you tell us more about it?
A: It happened in a very spontaneous way when I got to Madrid. I didn’t really know there was a scene but then I discovered those kids that are doing either photography, styling or taking pictures of themselves who played with fashion in a way that attracted me. So, it was very natural when I did my first show in Madrid to call a lot of them for modelling and the ones I didn’t know yet I invited to see the show. When they saw what I did it was like a link for all of us, it became a world for all of us to be welcoming and to play. Some collaborations started with a photographer who wanted clothes to represent what they wanted to say with their photography, and then some wanted clothes to wear at parties. Some of those friends who worked for other brands now do my casting, production and sales. Some others come and go, we work together, party together or they just come to support me when I show. It’s happening in a very beautiful way with all these friends in Madrid. I had to take the lead for all of them and be the name for this generation. Now I’m getting a bit tired, when they go to parties people yell out at them “Palomo Palomo!” although we have different names and we do different jobs. Even when they wear something they bought from a second-hand store, they get photographed in a party and the caption will say “Palomo friend” or “Palomo boy wearing Palomo”. They come back to tell me what happened and say “first I have a name and second I’m not wearing Palomo I’m wearing a year old t-shirt”, so it’s quite funny. We all love each other, I admire what they do and they admire what I do. We travel together and it’s beautiful really how it all developed that way.
T: If you were to design a collection that you would wear, what would that look like?
A: Well, I’m not the kind of boy that I portray in my shows, I’m a little bigger and shorter. Off course it’s my aesthetic and there are pieces in there for me. I feel everybody needs to adapt what they wear to their bodies and personalities. Everyone has got to adapt things into their own universe. That is what inspires me – seeing you wear my clothes in your way it gives me a different perspective and for me I do the same. In the shows I put things that I want to wear and things that my boyfriend would want to wear or my friends to a party.
T: The Spanish fashion scene is relatively conservative; how have you been received by your peers in Spain?
A: The Spanish fashion scene was kind of tired and asleep and didn’t really have any motivation. It’s very difficult to survive in here especially if you get too comfortable and you are not doing much to change the system or the way people think about dressing. I think they were really comfortable in not doing much, you know what I mean. They were just there waiting and complaining about the situation and always struggled. They get money from the government to do collections that I’ve never done and keep doing the same boring things they have been doing forever. So I came along, everyone started talking about me and I changed the views. Now people are starting to get excited as well and instead of criticising, they are starting to make change resulting in bigger exports for international fashion. Things are changing but very slowly. The Spanish customer is pretty much inexistent. There isn’t much of a fashion culture here in the terms of saving up a little and buying a t-shirt or shirt by a designer in a little studio. People here go to Zara and buy the same thing a friend has bought to feel more comfortable as opposed to buying something no one has and you are not sure if people will think if it’s ok or not. It’s very judgmental in terms of fashion here in Spain and its difficult to take people out of their comfort zone. They are very unsure about the way they dress and definitely don’t invest that much in fashion. The only thing that makes money here is made to measure, couture, wedding attire that sort of thing. Those customers go directly to the designers who have been doing this for thirty years who doesn’t really need to show collections. They make them look beautiful, normal and conventional. Rich ladies go to them for dresses so those designers work for years doing what is acceptable.
T: Do you the consider your brand to be a Spanish label or international?
A: It’s Spanish because it is made here and I put emphasis on Spanish culture but the reality is that most of my clients are international although I sell domestically but my final end goal is to be international and that’s the beauty of it. Producing something from here to the world so it is like an international brand.
T: There is a flourishing interest for Spanish brands from oversea investors and private equity firms. How are you able to sustain your brand with such polished products and presentation as an independent brand? And what advice would you have for new brands?
A: We need to have patience, make a big effort and give it time. Things are not going to be stable until you have years under your belt, today it’s been two years since our first show. It’s still difficult and you need to work on things that can support your fashion. I don’t make money from the shows I look for collaborations and things to do constantly. I’ve got my television program, we really have to be everywhere and take every opportunity to make your dream happen which is finally your fashion. Until the fashion makes enough money to support everything you need to create that fashion it is very difficult. We put together shows that have huge castings then we go to Paris and you know how expensive that is between castings and sets. It’s a very expensive job to have, a lot of money needs to be spent. I started with my own money and my family’s money but we are not a rich family with a lot of capital to put in and not worry about it. My parents have very normal jobs, any money we make we invest in the brand because it is the final dream. When you see the reaction from the press and the people around you when you put on the first show this gives you the courage to keep on going. It takes a lot of people and plenty of help from friends and those around you. It’s a lot of work, it’s a bit of a struggle but I must say I couldn’t be any happier at the moment.