MODEM: Tell us about how you two met and about the concept behind your brand...
Levi Palmer: Matthew and I met at Central Saint Martins in 2007, Matthew was in his final year BA, so for the first 3 years of our relationship we were working together on collections, even if it wasn’t in an official way. When we started palmer//harding we understood that the industry places designers in boxes to categorize them into their speciality. We wanted to design our own box and do so in a product category that wasn’t as explored which was shirting.
Your designs are sleek yet sophisticated, and your sense of style does not go unnoticed. How would you describe your style? How has it evolved in the past years, since your launch in 2012?
In terms of evolution I think we have maintained a similar sophistication across our seasons. I think the most visual evolution has been in our product offering, we now have a full range to build a wardrobe from, even though the shirts are still the most bought item we have do quite well with the supporting range.
Who are your muses and ideal clients?
We have the pleasure of calling many of our muses both friends and mentors and clients, these include women like Carmen Borgonovo, Jan Strimple, Caroline Issa and Kim Hersov!
Do you think that craftsmanship is playing an important role for today’s fashion? Especially nowadays, considering the ever growing influence of ‘fast fashion’... Is it important for you? How can we ‘save’ it?
Our nick name in the press is “The Shirt boys”! I think when you are known for a specific product as a specialty quality is of the utmost importance. For that matter, I think when you have a brand then quality is extremely important. More than anything a brand is a promise to a consumer that its products live up to the name. Fast fashion will always be there, but it is brands that will keep quality, innovation and skill alive.
As designers, you must be constantly surrounded by creative people — describe your most exceptional creative experience to date!
The most exciting season we have worked on has to be this last one. We were inspired by a contemporary artist named Nathan Peter. Early on in the season we reached out to him to explain what we were doing and get his insight. It was such a wonderful experience chatting with him and understanding his process more clearly. It really helped us to focus our design development more. In addition, the team we work with always inspires our collections greatly. Our stylist Carmen Borgonovo works closely with us to help focus our range, and then our show team Ned Lay and Fridthjofur Thorsteinsson help to create the most wonderful show sets and lighting. We’ve also been pretty fortunate to build some fantastic relationships with sponsors. For instance we have been working with Sheaffer Pen for 2 years now, doing both runway shows and art galleries, and it has been a wonderful experience. As a sponsor, they totally understand the need for innovation quality and style. They have a customer that appreciates good design and we have an audience that appreciates a good pen.
Looking back at your beginnings, what were the challenges that you had to face as an independent brand — are you still facing these challenges today?
As an independent brand the biggest challenge is getting your supply chain and production working correctly and in a timely manner. We have been fortunate to just start working with a new factory in Europe that totally gets what we are doing and are so supportive. Another big hurdle is cash flow: as a small brand it's hard to secure loans from banks, to grow your business, and keep it progressing, so in the early stages it's a lot of borrowing from friends and family!
What’s up next for palmer // harding?
We’ve just launched our first resort collection which is being shipped to stores now. It's a great selection of easy-to-wear contemporary priced shirts. We have been lucky to pick up some really great stockist for it as well, such as www.MatchesFashion.com and we are continuing to grow our e-commerce business.