Skatewear and skate brands have had a presence in the UK far before Palace, but arguably none have had the same international recognition. America has long dominated skate fashion with established figureheads such as Supreme and Vans but recently Palace has elevated itself to similar renown and as a result, highlighted the uniquely-UK subcultures influencing streetwear in Great Britain.
Lev Tanju founded Palace in 2009 along with some of his friends that the brand now sponsors. Before he was heavily involved in the skating scene, often creating videos of himself and his companions. They went under the name Palace Wayward Boys Choir and included skaters such as Andrew Brophy, Chewy Cannon, Rory Milanes, Danny Brady, Nick Jensen, Benny Fairfax, Joey Pressey, Snowy, Charlie Young and Oliver Todd. Lucien Clarke joined in 2010 after he dropped his lucrative Element sponsorship, an unexpected but consistent move given what Palace tries to represent.
The name Palace is actually a tongue-in-cheek nod towards the apartment that Lev would share with his skate friends, which he has described as being very far from the literal definition of the word.
When he decided to start his company, he had one fundamental goal in mind: providing quality gear to skaters so that they could simply skate. This has held true throughout the brands existence. In fact, Lev directs his genuine connection to the skate scene in England as his formula to success. Overall, he has stated that he started the company because he felt that things could be “fresher” and “more with the times” regarding the skate scene in London.
He has articulated that his artistic direction with the brand started with wanting a logo that could be put onto his clothing as big as possible. Lev went into a garment factory asking explicitly for such a design, and that’s how the triferg developed into the logo known today. His first few collections were sold at local skate shops in London, usually consisting of shirts and hoodies with expressive and loud designs. He was quoted in an Grey Skate Mag interview as saying that about 97% of his clothing is in fact sold at skate shops. Now, Palace has it’s own shop in London near Picadilly Circus.
Along with the clothing, Palace has always put out skate decks and equipment thus emphasizing the underlying objective of the brand. They have really stressed that they appreciate the support and exposure the brand has gotten, but that has not changed their modus operandi.
It can be said that other brands are envious of how that exposure was received. It was nothing short of organic. Palace does not “seed” it’s clothing. Seeding is the process of sending your products to celebrities or style influencers in order to initially create artificial hype in hopes of that hype becoming very real.
Nonetheless, celebrities – English and international alike – discovered it and boosted Palace to new heights. Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine and Rihanna were spotted wearing Pally gear in August 2012, with the likes of A$AP Rocky following suit soon after.
But before that, the brand had already won the hearts of youth subcultures across the United Kingdom. Aside from the skate scene, Lev knew a few Grime artists as a result of his broadcast, Palace Waywards Global Skating News on dontwatchthat.tv. The clothing quickly became synonymous with the Grime scene, a cultural institute that is in and of itself very home-grown.
On the note of quintessentially English hallmarks, a collaboration with Umbro became the first-of-its-kind accomplishment for the skatewear brand in 2013. Taking stylistic cues from the long-established culture of football terrace supporters and hooligans, and combining that with the British skate aesthetic, the collaboration produced successfully distinctive pieces. The collection ended up being featured on i-D magazine and helped the brand gain even more traction in the mainstream.
Reebok also collaborated with the brand in 2013, and then Adidas did as well in 2014 and Adidas Originals in 2015. For Lev, these milestones satisfied major personal goals. “I wanted to make stuff like that, that’d look English. We wanted to do football shirts with Umbro, and we wanted to work with Reebok—what I wore as a kid.” as he says in an article by Vogue.
Now Palace is carried by retailers worldwide, even with some products being available at both Supreme locations in LA and NYC. The two are often compared, but Lev suggests that really the only valid comparison is that they are both skate companies doing their own thing. As he says in his Grey Skate Mag interview, “It’s kind of funny that people compare Palace and Supreme; I have no idea why. I’m certainly not following anything they do, or taking any pages out of their book. I’m just trying to make stuff I want to wear, and keep the team and my friends laced up in high-grade quality shit. Of course we will always be a skate brand, that’s what we are.”
The airy attitude that Lev takes towards his fashion endeavor makes it seem as though a lot of his success can be attributed to simple luck. But that is seriously discrediting what the brand has accomplished at large. Intentionally or not, Palace managed to see a void waiting to get filled and have capitalized on that. It has come far from it’s roots, but seeing the brand’s history so far, it can be expected that staying true to those roots shouldn’t be difficult for Lev and his team of Wayward Choir Boys.