The guys behind Skate Brand Palace
In 2017, English skateboarder and designer Lev Tanju traveled from London to New York to make an appointment at the Ralph Lauren Corporation headquarters on Madison Avenue. Palace, the skate brand Tanju founded with friends in 2009, was on the verge of a momentous collaboration: working with the legendary American fashion company on a co-branded collection that was to include silk pajamas, slippers in velvet and the much-loved “heelflip” Polo Bear sweater. Ralph Lauren has always been one of Tanju’s favorite brands (and the favorite of almost every skateboarder who appeared in the ’90s). Nonetheless, Tanju arrived for the meeting dressed as he would be most other days – whether heading to the pub or the skate park – wearing a heather gray sweatpants that Palace had produced for a collaboration with Adidas, with Gucci loafers in green croc leather Neon. The pants were particularly noticeable: they had a giant hole in one of the knees. What Tanju hadn’t considered was that he might meet Ralph himself.
After an introductory conversation with executives in a very corporate boardroom, Tanju and Palace co-founder Gareth Skewis were ushered through a pair of doors directly into Ralph’s office. “Oh, okay,” Tanju recalls. ” I did not know. Mr. Lauren, for what it’s worth, isn’t the type to be overly concerned with dress codes, Tanju says. “Ralph doesn’t care about this shit,” he said. “He’s so varied in what he wears, you know what I mean?” He looks like a fucking mountaineer or a cowboy half the time. He runs his own kind of shit.
The meeting was as casual as Tanju was dressed. Lauren spoke about her appreciation for European sportswear and her high-end Western RRL, which Tanju and Skewis had always loved. Tanju said he saw Lauren at the Ralph store on Madison Avenue years ago, when he thought he was looking at a hologram. Now he was meeting the real thing up close. “I left that meeting,” he continues, “and I was like,” Whoa, this is fucking crazy. What did I just do? ‘ We went and were annihilated afterwards, right away. I just went to drink so much alcohol. It was unbelievable. Just happy, like ‘Whoa, do you think we did this?’ “
Tanju’s dreams have a way to come true, and the collection that would eventually emerge from this reunion included not only sweaters, slippers, and pajamas, but other classic polo pieces like rugby shirts and cotton pants. corduroy, all designed by Palace. There were even Polo skate decks. And for the promotional campaign behind the collection, there was no curbing Tanju’s wild creative impulses. He decided he wanted a horse, ridden by Palace team skater Lucien Clarke, to jump over a Volkswagen Golf GTI – a striking collision between iconic European engineering and Ralph Lauren’s classic vision of the American West. The next thing he knew, he and Skewis were in Spain, to make it happen, with famous British fashion photographer David Sims (who took the photos accompanying this story). “And the fucking horse jumps over the car,” Tanju said. “And then you’re like, ‘Whoa, that was amazing, man. “And David Sims takes a picture of it and it becomes a good thing.
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