Alejandro Gómez Palomo has the desire to create garments that are liberating, for those men who have no fear to relate their style to who they truly are. However, Palomo isn't only beautifying men, but also the poetry of a culture. With the use of traditional Spanish craftsmanship, his designs are a contemporary interpretation of past traditions. Orlando and Je T’aime Moi Non Plus, his two collections, are timeless symbols of delicacy allowing us to believe in our inner beauty through a settled contrast of opulence and elegance. Alejandro is taking us with him on his personal journey, in which fashion is just as precious as it used to be.
I would like to start from the very beginning, from your childhood. If you had to share your very first memories about fashion, what would they be?
The moment I realized I wanted to be a fashion designer came with Yves Saint Laurent’s very last show. I remember watching it on the news when I was about 7, and I was so fascinated… then my father told me a bit about him, and since then I knew I wanted to be a couturier, just like him. Later came my obsession with Galliano when I saw one of his shows for Dior on TV – it was about flamenco, and that really touched me. From then on, I dressed my Barbie dolls imitating Galliano's designs with scratches of fabrics that I got from curtains and dresses. Those are probably my first ever memories about fashion.
You're from Córdoba, in the south of Spain, a region with a culture and beauty that seem to be translated into your work. How did your surroundings influence you as a designer?
I grew up surrounded by a very traditional culture, not particularly a fashion one. However, this was never something inconvenient in order to let my creativity grow towards fashion. I was always involved in activities in church, theatre, carnival and folk traditions. I was fascinated by the costumes required for these festivities, and all this was what I later translated into my own aesthetics and recreated in my designs. The light in the south of Spain and the colors are also something that have always been present when creating my pieces.
You decided to move to London to pursue your career, where you studied a BA in Fashion Design specializing in menswear. What did London symbolize to you when taking this decision?
It was clear enough for me as a teenager that I could not study in my hometown, but in that moment I hadn't really discovered what was out there. Only a few days in London, when I was 15, were enough for me to realize that my life was about to change. The air in the streets of the city, the mix of cultures, and mainly the style of the people was something I fell in love with, and made me want to be part of this movement. When I was 18 I moved to London with the dream of becoming a fashion designer by studying and living in one of the most inspiring cities in the world.
And looking back, how could you describe this experience, and what have you learned while living there?
Living in London was, in every sense, a very enriching experience for me. I have not only acquired a great knowledge of fashion in the school, but I also had the opportunity to work closely with beautiful haute couture pieces at Liberty’s vintage deluxe department. I believe that was probably what made me really understand what makes a garment unique. Working at Liberty’s helped me out finding the kind of fashion I wanted to create myself, and what was the path I would have to follow to make that possible.
The city gathers a lot of young designers from all over the world, who are also carrying the same hopes and dreams. Did you feel any sort of competitiveness when living there?
I don’t think we can speak of competitiveness. At least I did not feel such a thing. I believe every person, every designer’s project, has their own ideas – a concrete concept of beauty they want to share with the world. We all have different backgrounds, styles and, of course, different perceptions of what good fashion is. I think, in the process of getting closer to that good fashion, everyone develops his own language: a personal code, a spirit. Of course you can find similarities between spirits sometimes, but I am far from thinking of competitiveness. On the contrary, I like finding people who reach the same conclusions I do. I have great friends I studied with at school, with whom I constantly share and learn. After all, fashion is beauty, and beauty should not relate to competitiveness.
The fashion industry tends to evolve towards a place where it's much harder for emerging designers to break into. What is your perception and opinion on this?
In this economic context we are living in right now, real fashion is being pushed to the side. Brands no longer care for quality. Not in the clothes themselves, and not in the process of creation, which is even more important. Creation requires time. It has a procedure to be followed. You cannot pretend to present a completely different collection, better than the last one, every four months, and still maintain quality in every aspect. You would need a huge team, resources and even if you had that, you would have to force your mind to be unnaturally productive. I guess that is actually one of the reasons why we saw great fashion designers leaving their jobs at very important houses. There is very little of fashion in that. It is us, emerging designers, who have to realize these problems, and try to come up with a solution. We have to think of fashion in a different way. We should no longer follow this path because that makes fashion poor and unsustainable. We might have to look back to the past, where every piece was made under order. Collections were made with time, taking care of every single detail in the process of creation. We should be clever, make an analysis of why things in the fashion industry are not working so well. In changing the rules, it's probably where we are going to find our place in this field.
Je T’aime Moi Non Plus is the title of your graduate collection. Why did you name the collection after the song?
Well, that comes from a very happy sThis is a italictage of my life: living with my boy Emilio in London. That is our song. Emilio inspires me. He is my muse and my model, and I create for him. For him and for all the people I love: friends surrounding me, family… When I design, I think, “what would they want to wear that would make them feel special, complete?” My first collection, like the second, has a lot to do with all these beautiful people around me. I decided to name it that way because I wanted to dedicate it to my boy, and everyone who has meant a lot to me in that wonderful time I spent in London.
No wonder there is a feeling of romance and poetry in the A/W collection. Where do your main references for this season come from?
I received a huge inspiration from Virginia Woolf’s book Orlando. There are probably not so many things in this world more romantic than her. Her perception of beauty, expressed in such a delicate way, has influenced me a lot when creating this new collection. Also the movie named after her book was a great reference for me. Tilda Swinton’s character was a delight, and it made such an impression on me, that I felt her/his spirit had to be shown in all the garments. In some pieces I have reinterpreted that romanticism, of course. I have adapted it to the modern times, but the idea is pretty much all the same.
You're also playing with the idea of gender. How could you describe the Palomo man?
I don’t think I play with the idea of gender, which I don’t have in mind when I create. I crave for the idea of men being able to wear the same beautiful embroideries, volumes and materials women wear all the time. Just like a woman can wear “manly” suits, pants or garments that are traditionally applied to men, men should also be able to make their fantasies come true though fashion. That is why Palomo’s man has such a sharp profile, because the garments embody people who take risks, those who dare to wear skirts, crystal beads, or layers and layers of silk without fear. I guess Palomo’s man is the one who thinks of fashion as a way to fulfill their daily dreams. Boys who feel like my clothes are part of their personality. Fashion should be like that, it should project what we have inside. My clothes project dreams.
I'm very curious to know what your next collection will be about. Can you give us a brief idea, or a few words about it?
We are just beginning the not-so-easy process of research. I will have to be traveling for a long time now, presenting the collection in a few places all around, so I will be picking up ideas from here and there. I am looking forward to do so. I have great fun investigating, discovering new sources of inspiration, materials, people… All I can say is expect bigger!