SSENSE x Palm Angels
A Praise to Eternity
Francesco Ragazzi didn’t grow up skateboarding. But once the Italian art director visited the City of Angels, he became captivated by the skaters of Venice Beach. “I think it’s because they are authentic – especially in L.A., where everything was born,” says Ragazzi. “You still feel that energy.” He began taking the photos that would become Palm Angels: a collection of elegant shots of L.A. skate crews, printed alongside closeups of saints and seraphim taken from the early Renaissance master Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel frescoes. The next step for Ragazzi? Launch a line of streetwear and gritty Californian tailoring inspired by the book. See the clothes in action in the skate film Ragazzi co-directed with SSENSE, and it’s easy to understand how he was converted.
As the first Palm Angels collection makes its worldwide debut at SSENSE, Ragazzi spoke with us about elevating skate fashion and the moment of epiphany that started it all.
Francesco Ragazzi: Before going to L.A., I always fantasized about Cali life. As soon as I landed there and saw that golden light I understood there was a connection between my dreams and the reality. I started to photograph every detail of this new world.
It was one picture I took one summer that made me go back to L.A. over and over again. It was a vision in my mind: blonde hair floating in the air, rays of light that capture bodies fighting gravity. For some religions, this is the portrayal of angels. For me, it was a beginning.
I only had three or four good pictures shot randomly, but I had a clear vision of what I had to do. So I flew to L.A. every time I could and fell more and more in love with the city. Like Giotto in his time, I wanted to use a different perspective and tell my story through my camera. I wanted to capture skateboarding over and beyond all prejudices and see it through the eyes of an outsider.
“For some religions, this is the portrayal of angels. For me, it was a beginning.“
Here, I was reporting a belief. I think that a passion for a sport with its routine is like a religion. The skaters’ moments of action are like prayers: a moment of solitude when you are with yourself. They wait for their turn under the palm trees and when the time comes, they fly in the brightness of that light that sculpts their silhouettes. For me, they are angels.
The book helped me to create the aesthetic of the Palm Angels brand. It’s like I launched a manifesto that shaped the brand before it existed.
Since I had a strong concept for my book, I wanted to find that in my collection. I felt that such an inspiring culture didn’t have a brand that reflects my concept. So me and my partner took Palm Angels to the next level. I based the entire project on trying to upgrade skateboarding, with the maximum quality and craftsmanship.
The inspiration came from brands like Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren: brands that are extremely authentic. I really wanted to push that classic American wardrobe and reinterpret it in a modern way. I’m obsessed by Californian minimalist art. That kind of architecture defines my brand; I need that simplicity in every piece of the collection.
SSENSE was one of the first partners for the Palm Angels project since you saw something different. And being able to communicate with your customer is a privilege. The SSENSE x Palm Angels video pushes the essence of the brand. We really wanted to visualize religion and skateboarding.
With Palm Angels, I want to take that classic piece your father has in his wardrobe and project it into the future. Palm Angels has to be about authenticity, and that is immortal. It is a “praise to eternity.”
- Video: Francesco Ragazzi