Money. Success. Fame. Glamour.
In an industry that’s as dangerously fast as it is monotonous, seeing a brand emerge that’s genuine can feel like a little glimmer of hope. PALOMO SPAIN is one of those brands—and not coincidentally, glimmering is what it does best. Founded by ALEJANDRO GÓMEZ PALOMO about two years ago, the Spanish label is bringing cult-like fairy tales to the world’s biggest fashion weeks, creating clothes that are equally informed by the designer’s small-town roots and a creative perspective that’s unapologetically queer. “I propose this liberty because I see it as something that couldn’t be any more normal.”
“Spain, Andalucía, Sierra Morena…” When Alejandro Gómez Palomo speaks of his work, he drifts off to the picturesque regions of his home country. And though you might have seen his designs gracing the runways of Paris and New York, there is absolutely no Palomo without Spain. “It is the light, the spirit of the people, this marvellous energy that allows me to feel inspired. I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t have my hometown, family and environment around me all the time.” This might come as a surprise—especially given the popularity of the designer’s work among club kids and young art aficionados in the world’s big cities. The truth is this, however: “I can pick ideas, images and inspiration from many places. But coherently analysing everything and converting it into my new collections, that only happens in Posadas.”
Getting to know Palomo, it was likely on Instagram that the ascending fashion house first caught your attention. Always queer and often quirky, Palomo’s gender-defying aesthetic doesn’t go unnoticed. Feathers, flowers, fetish, velvet and—a lot of—rosy cheeks are key ingredients of the Spanish designer’s dramatic aesthetic. But in case that missed you somehow, Beyoncé probably didn’t. Breaking the internet with the announcement of twin babies Sir and Rumi Carter last summer, it was a dress by Palomo that made Queen B shine like no other. With 10.3 million people liking that Instagram post, the exposure for Palomo is not to be sniffed at. The designer, however, remains realistic: “She looked absolutely fabulous! I think it was a nice way to make people who’d normally look at our clothes sceptically think of Palomo in a better way. Because unfortunately, some people need the validation of an icon to go a step forward and consider something as cool or acceptable.”
Palomo is a storyteller. For summer ’18, the designer’s collection and presentation are themed Hotel Palomo, reinterpreting the looks you’ll encounter at any high-class hotel—from golden bellboy uniforms to spotless white bathrobes worn with a pair of seductive, paparazzi-proof shades. This coming autumn, however, the designer switches gears, looking to the past for a collection inspired by historical hunting—or, more specifically, the festivities of a hunting day in Sierra Morena, Spain. “I normally find inspiration in recurrent pictures of my life as a child or moments I’ve recently gone through,” he explains. In the case of The Hunting, that includes “the stable lad looks, the hunters, my aunts sitting around a table with food, waiting for their husbands and sons to come back and celebrate together. I extract from the most traditional themes an aesthetic that I want to present in a very fresh, cheeky and appealing way.” Cheeky, in this case, literally referring to suggestive cut-outs and bulging briefs (never before did hunters look this NSFW).
Naturally, this brings us to an essential Palomo characteristic. Whether you want to call it a play on sexuality, camp, the homoerotic or gender fluidity—the designer himself has previously described it as “couture for boys”—it’s definitely not always understood or appreciated. Case in point: one shady YouTube caption reads: “The fashion show was performed by male models… I think.” For Palomo, however, this non-conformist approach to sexuality comes as a given. “I think we all explore sexuality. What people identify as playing with gender conventions, I do in such a natural way that I don’t even think of it. I find ambiguity funny and sexy, and exploring the feminine side of boys can be very interesting.” When asked whether he’s trying to counter today’s taboos, the answer is simple: “I’m not trying to think of it as taboo. I propose this liberty because I see it as something that couldn’t be any more normal. I hope a vast majority of people feel the same way—if not now, very soon!”
For Palomo, inspiration is found in his real-life clientele. When it comes to casting for a show or shoot, he distinguishes his direction by looking for boys who are much more than “models”: “We never look at the physical only,” he explains. “We need boys with attitude, who believe in what they’re doing and interpret the character that’s wearing my clothes, and are able to be remarkable, memorable. We need to feel a connection with them. It’s a bond created by sharing our concept of beauty, comfort and many times a sense of humour as well.” More than anyone else, however, the foremost of the designer’s muses is the man who’s also closest to his heart—and thus, his creative spirit. “My Pol! He’s my everything: my partner, my colleague, my inspiration, my judge and my lover.” Pain, in the form of heartbreak, is currently not on Palomo’s personal agenda. “I’ve been in love since I started this project two years ago. But if I were in pain it would be reflected in my collections—I can get pretty dramatic!”
Despite his ever-growing following, thinking up collections that have market appeal can nonetheless be challenging. Yet this doesn’t bring Palomo down or steer him away from following his outspoken heart: “When I’m making collections I try to put stories together. Although I don’t automatically think of what people might identify as ‘wearable’, I think I blend the amount of showpieces and pieces that can actually sell pretty well. More and more, I practice the exercise of bringing accessible, comfortable pieces that we can find in everyone’s wardrobe.” The fashion system is an impossibly demanding one, however. When asked what he would love to change about the industry, the answer comes with an emphatic exclamation mark—and an additional one from Glamcult. “The speed that the production system has taken on. It makes it so difficult for designers—not only young ones but also the ones working for big corporations—to maintain themselves in the circuit, and remain inspired!”
Travelling the universe of Palomo Spain, whether that entails scrolling through a dreamy Instagram feed or attending an actual show, a film-like mood is bound to encapsulate you. From the dramatic gowns to lavish floral backdrops, retro references and theatrical performances, there’s always a touch of Wes Anderson or Pedro Almodóvar—albeit a little (or a lot) queerer. Regarding those ever-present flowers, the designer keeps it short and simple: “I just love them! I could pretend there is a profound feeling behind them, but at the end of the day they’re just flowers… who doesn’t love a nice bouquet of 120 red roses?” Fashion-wise, the designer’s influences don’t come as a bolt from the blue. “Christian Lacroix and John Galliano have profoundly inspired me,” he enthuses. “And Yves Saint Laurent, Cristóbal Balenciaga… who could escape their influence? But also, remarkable characters from concrete periods in fashion history. Paul Poiret and Ossie Clark are important references to me as well.”
One can only hope that Palomo Spain will go down in history among these greatest of the greats. If it’s up to the heartfelt designer himself, there’s absolutely no question. Palomo’s hopes for the future are as legendary as Felix da Housecat on the equally legendary Party Monster soundtrack: “MONEY. SUCCESS. FAME. GLAMOUR.” Now that, according to Glamcult, always deserves an “Amen.”
Words by Leendert Sonnevelt
Photography: Carlijn Jacobs
Styling: Imruh Asha—House of Orange
Hair: Hester Wernert—UNSPOKEN
Make-up: Pernell Kusmus—House of Orange
Model: Gaia Orgeas—GIRL mgmt & Arad Inbar