The London-based label with a penchant for dissecting classic white shirting.
THE CHICEST WOMEN are often those who have mastered the art of wearing basics. Take Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, and Lauren Hutton. All women lauded for their exquisite taste, and all women with a relatively simple wardrobe. Their looks consisted of a great white shirt, a pair of beautifully tailored trousers, a blazer, and a great pair of sunglasses. Wardrobe staples, worn with panache.
The basics—and a classic white shirt in particular—was the inspiration behind palmer//harding, a new London-based label created by designers Matthew Harding and Levi Palmer, who met whilst studying at Central Saint Martins. palmer//harding’s touchstone is the white shirt, that iconic piece which has transcended gender and occasion yet still has the ability to look new and fresh. After both designers completed a class project at Central Saint Martins to reinvent the white shirt in five new ways, they realized it was the ideal framework to begin a line. “Reinterpreting the white shirt was something we could really own and be known for, and was a good base to begin our label. We want to be known for our shirts—like Burberry is known for their trench coats—but then have a whole world around them with other pieces,” explains Harding, who ended up at Saint Martins after pursuing a career in art and fashion, but didn’t quite realize how well renowned the school was. Having been in business for three years (the pair launched the label in 2012), each has their own area of expertise. Palmer focuses on pattern making and draping new silhouettes, while Harding considers the styling and visual direction of the show.
"REINTERPRETING THE WHITE SHIRT WAS SOMETHING WE COULD REALLY OWN AND BE KNOWN FOR."
Their collections are full of sculptural pieces realized in unusual fabrications (like the thin, tissue-paper-esque pencil skirts from their Spring 2016 collection), and lots of layering—their Fall 2016 show was full of turtlenecks under shirts, which were layered under vests. Shirts, skirts, and jackets are cut and draped in new and interesting ways: a sleeve is longer and fuller at the shoulder, coats are given a cape-like effect, and a sleeveless shirt is bedecked with ruffles. “I think our woman doesn’t really dress for fashion, she dresses because of style and the idea of a bigger concept,” explains Harding. “Something that’s really helped us in the past two years is eliminating a lot of fashion imagery out of our research. We’re just not really looking at anything ‘fashion’ because there’s not much need to. With the autumn/winter collection we were discussing a lot of philosophical ideas about how we see the world changing. That inspired a certain mood and tone and fabrics and colors. But the shirts are based more on instinct.”
Matthew: Porridge with peanut butter and bananas.
2. What was your last dream about?
Matthew: I don’t really remember dreams.
Levi: I never remember my dreams.
3. If you could have any super power, what would it be?
4. What is your spirit animal?
Matthew: A Peregrine falcon.
Levi: A leopard.
5. What is your greatest creative achievement?
Matthew: Our resort 2016 collection.
Levi: Helping to build palmer//harding.
6. If you could swap lives with anyone in history (alive or dead), who would it be?
Matthew: I wouldn't.
Levi: Jack Kerouac
7. What is your favorite song?
Matthew: At the moment either 'Hit or Miss’ by Odetta or ‘Cool Cat’ by Queen (with David Bowie version).
Levi: 'Where Have all the Flowers Gone' by Marlene Detrich.
8. Favorite artists?
Matthew: Nathan Peter and Naum Gabo.
Levi: I'm really into Hofesch Schechter as a choreographer, I love Nathan Peter’s work for contemporary art, and Analia Saban and Zander Blom.
9. If you could wear one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Matthew: My acne shearling jacket.
Levi: Levi’s classic 501’s, black turtleneck and a Levi’s denim trucker jacket.
10. Any hidden talents?
Levi: I’m great at remembering facts and numbers.