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Matthew Harding and Levi Palmer, co-founders and designers of palmer // harding
Matthew Harding and Levi Palmer, co-founders and designers of palmer // harding
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Behind The Seams With palmer // harding, London's Shirt Boys

Picture of India Doyle
Updated: 11 November 2016
Levi Palmer and Matthew Harding have cracked that eternal fashion conundrum: how to marry innovation, brand identity and commercial viability. Their answer: the shirt.

Texas born Levi Palmer and British born Matthew Harding met at London’s Central St Martins. After dabbling in both lines at the start of the brand’s launch, the pair decided to streamline their focus to womenswear only, and voilà: palmer // harding as we know it today was born. In honing their focus on one wardrobe staple, the dynamic duo have earned themselves a legion of loyal fans which include Prime Minister Theresa May and founder of Bag Snob, Tina Craig. This eclectic gang have all switched on to the complexities at the core of palmer // harding silhouettes, which work with clever ideas around layering alongside a forward thinking approach to fabrics. Having long since nailed the basics, Matthew and Levi have created a unique aesthetic that ensures the palmer // harding shirt has a clear and much celebrated identity. We caught up with the pair to talk London Fashion Week and their SS17 collection.

palmer // harding SS17
palmer // harding SS17

What were your inspirations for SS17?

For SS17 we developed the collection kind of without a concept. Of course we had starting points, and one of the artists that we looked at to develop our fabrics was Matthew Kean and his 2015 series called Utah. It was a mixture of really graphic stripes with particle boards. We started developing this collection based off of that, but then we moved away from it as we felt they were a bit too graphic and too harsh for the end consumer. We wanted something a little bit more nostalgic, mixing these contemporary references with historical references as well. That’s when we looked at J. C. Leyendecker, who was a 1920’s illustrator. J. C.’s work had a very innocent and naive quality about it, and also an organic hand to it. We combined these elements to develop our fabric stories. For the silhouette element, it was really a continuation of the idea of functional layering: how layering should be adapted to focus on the shirt, and how to allow the palmer // harding shirt to be as free and liberated as possible.

palmer // harding SS17
palmer // harding SS17

What’s your favourite piece in this collection?

I love the outerwear. There’s an idea of multi layering which I think is quite spectacular. Maybe it’s a bit selfish because the outwear isn’t gender specific, so I can wear it… But I think we also have some really fantastic shirting this season, it has a bit more of a casual touch. We have these ‘Super Shirts’ that we do every season, a long, voluminous shirt and that is also a personal favourite.

Behind the scenes, what’s going on at the day of the show?

We present our own fashion show, first a catwalk and then a presentation. It lets our audience experience the clothes a bit closer and get more involved. On the day of the show we have a team of about 80 people, and we build it [the presentation] from the ground up. It’s literally everything from carrying the set down the stairs and putting it together, doing model walk throughs and sorting out the lighting. Backstage we’re actually quite organised. Even two weeks before the show, we’re able to maintain quite a calm environment.

palmer // harding SS17
palmer // harding SS17

Why do you choose to showcase at London Fashion Week?

We show at LFW because it’s such a nurturing environment for young labels. NEWGEN supported us from the very beginning, and we’ve since graduated and had support from BFC [British Fashion Council] – both mentoring and financially. It’s these impactful initiatives that have allowed young creative labels in London to grow and become an established part of the British fashion industry. For us it’s loyalty, it’s comfort, it’s knowing who our support network is and maintaining an integrity with that.

palmer // harding SS17
palmer // harding SS17

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