There's been a lot of discussion about menswear versus streetwear recently. About the death of one, the rise of the other. About how one was birthed by the other, then turned and ate it, like some fucked up sartorial version of spider cannibalism. All of this is fun, and from some angles appears to be true, but then how do you account for the fact that #menswear (as it's known on Tumblr) has outgrown it's cropped, cuffed britches (exhibit A: Nick Wooster at the helm of JCPenney), and streetwear continuing to recycle itself so fast that you hardly have a moment to check its pulse (exhibit B: the unlikely rise of a London-based skate brand as streetwear's new guiding light).
Sometimes all it takes is the right celebrity endorsement at the right time—a la Pigalle and A$AP Rocky. Where was the French brand before the A$AP Mob leader wore the black and white box logo tee? I couldn't tell you. Pin-pointing exactly why something is cool is never easy. It always comes down to "so-and-so wears it" or some intangible factors like rarity or mystique. Intentionally or not, Palace seems to have figured out the magic formula.
It would be hard to continue the discussion without some mention of Supreme, which seems to be the template here. Supreme will always be the paradigm for relentless core skate brands that refuse wide spread acceptance, while a continuously erupting volcano of hype keeps growing and strengthening the brand's island. Not that we've seen Palace attempt to grow into a full on brick and mortar lifestyle brand. Not yet, anyway. The launch of it's first pop-up shop in London, and the pending webshop (launching later today, fingers crossed) may be the brand testing the waters for expansion. "Sources" tell me that much wider distribution for the brand is imminent, and it appears as though there will be much more than decks, tees and caps
The question of the brand's future may fall into the hands of head bloke in charge Lev Tanju. He's spoken a bit about the brand, and seems to know pretty damn well what he's got on his hands. "I’ve always been reluctant to do any of those dumb obvious collaborations that make streetwear perverts happy: big garish headphones made out of Tyler the Creator’s bogeys or whatever. I don't think anyone saw this thing coming and that’s what I set out to do. Suuurprise, bitches!" He says in the interview with Dazed Digital.
Palace may have followed a similar path to Supreme, but only in the sense that the brand has firm roots in the city that birthed it, the unwavering respect of the elite skate crowd, and a bunch of really cool shit that everyone wants—from the hopeless interns at my office, to A$AP (surprise) and Ri-Ri. The brand, small as it is, even won Transworld's European Skate Brand of the Year award, whatever the fuck that means.
The launch of the pop-up and webshop could be the big turning point for Palace. For a time, the entire brand seemed to exist in a '90s time warp, complete with skate clips shot on VHS and edited to a Fat Joe freestyle from 1994. In one video, one of the Palace team riders, Chewy Cannon, buys a bag of weed from a dealer on the street before he does his trick. The videos—Tres Trill is the best one, in my opinion, if you're looking for a good starting point—look like '90s classics that skate nerds worship, complete with choppy editing and random nonskate footage.
There's a distinct sense that there is absolutely no pretense here—although the brand is image heavy, there's nothing contrived about it. And, quite frankly, no attempt to add layers of artiness or a cleverness, which kind of makes it clever in the end. Their one collaboration with Umbro couldn't have been more true to the brand's roots in the UK and general hooliganism. Let's just hope that as it grows—and as blogs jump on the bandwagon—Palace remains what it is: a skate brand that doesn't give a fuck about what you think, even when it suddenly becomes your new favorite.
Images courtesy of Sam Ashley.