Palmer // Harding, the name transforming everyday shirts into statement pieces
Your classic button-down, reimagined
Can fashion be monogamous? Dare we entertain the idea of singularity in a world that celebrates change? As London-based label Palmer // Harding's story unfolds, the mutual exclusivity of uniformity and creative distinction disappears — its masterminds Levi Palmer and Matthew Harding having built their name upon a devotion to shirting right from the get-go in 2012.
Five years along and the duo have proved such a marriage entirely enduring, now the poster boys for experimental women's shirting in the London scene. We find out from the designers if specialisation rears its head as liberation or limitation, and what a cotton button-down symbolises for both genders.
Tell us how you both started designing. Levi Palmer (LP): My first boyfriend wore Jean Paul Gaultier perfume in the '90s, and discovering that scent lead me to look at his collections which heavily influenced my younger aesthetics. Matthew Harding (MH): When I first went to Central Saint Martins for my foundation, the tutors kept telling me that fashion was too hard and too competitive, so that challange was what made me decide it was for me.
At Palmer // Harding, how are the roles split and why? LP: We both look after the design elements of the brand, but I look after marketing, sponsorship and sales. MH: I handle production and finance as well as show styling.
Why the shirt? How did the focus come to be? Our focus was in shirting at Central Saint Martins and we had to do a shirt project in our first year. After we graduated, we felt that this was an area which we wanted to continue exploring as we started the label.
Are there times you find the specialisation liberating, or on the flipside, limiting? There are so many elements within shirting which we continue to explore and enjoy doing so. However, every designer faces times when they reach a roadblock with design, which requires a refocus and a shift in inspiration. The exclusive Beach Shirt Project with Matchesfashion.com was great to be involved in as it added a new angle, materials, and silhouettes to our design focus.
Do you keep track of the number of variations of shirts that you have designed? No, actually we don't! It would be interesting to catalogue all the variations, but I guess that will have to wait for the exhibition.
Does the purpose of a shirt differ for men and women? We think they signify the idea of power, sexuality and romance within the confines of a versatile garment, for both genders.
Having started out not long ago, what have you discovered that aren't taught in school about running your own label? Cash flow is one of the most difficult things as a business; they don't teach you this school nor should they, as it distracts from the creative process. It's something we address daily, and if you're not mindful of it, you can quickly loose control of the business.
What goes into a shirt at Palmer // Harding? We go though numerous fitting sessions and sampling ahead of creating the final piece. As we use a lot of volume in our designs, we test how our pieces look whilst walking to see if there needs to be more or less material to create the desired effect. Slight adjustments are also made to key pieces season on season. This could include looking at how the seams are finished or how the collar sits, so there are always updates and improvements to be made, even to our bestselling styles.
As Palmer//Harding does not offer menswear, where do you get your own shirts? We either custom make our own or wear the women's styles. The Poet shirt is quite unisex as it's like a painter's smock!