Just receiving the invite to the palmer//harding A/W14 show sparked excitement; a vile of mysterious perfume with the brand name and venue location printed on it isn’t your typical invite. This season, the inspiration for the collection was paper, and the scent in the bottle was paperback.
The label, made up of design duo Levi Harding and Matthew Palmer, was created on the foundations of the cotton shirt. Their specialty is deconstructing the classic white shirt and creating an architectural replacement for it. With their aim to give the shirt directional design, the inspiration for their latest collection seemed fitting. "The idea of building a brand based on cotton shirts is quite a simple medium, and so taking a simple medium like paper and seeing how we can push it into interesting territories was a nice challenge," explained the duo backstage after their show. The girls were still franticly changing while we spoke; as the static presentation was due to begin five minutes later.
The theme behind the collection came into fruition after reading their reviews of last season’s show. “A couple of people in the press were describing our cotton shirts as ‘paper-white’ shirts, and that sort of sparked an inspiration for us,” they explained. And as for the perfume invite, “scent is such an emotive sense and we just really wanted to create something that had a memory attached to it.”
The collection was shown at Central Saint Martin’s Platform Theatre, a sort of homecoming for the designers, who are both MA graduates of the prestigious school. The immersive paper set, designed by multi-media artist Malcolm Pate, saw thick paper ribbons draped from the lofty ceiling of the Platform Theatre, and stacks of paper scattered around the space. “Malcolm is a perfectionist, he’s a mad genius,” Matthew and Levi agree, who knew Pate when they were students. The pair trusts his judgement completely, as they gave him free reign to design their set. “Malcolm would never produce something horrible; everything that he presents to us is perfection.”
A plethora of fabrics were used; patent leathers, wool, neoprene and of course cotton, to name a few. In addition to this, to recreate flat and smooth finishes, different surface treatments were applied to the fabrics, elevating the collection. The colours used were super appropriate to the theme; crisp paper-white and highlighter yellow, with accents of rusted orange and black kept the collection thematic and simple. The space was graced with A-line skirts, tunics worn over trousers, and of course, many variations on the white shirt, playing with the volumes of the shoulders, sleeves and collars.
The girls walked in an inter-crossing figure of eight while the soundtrack of Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’ and the monotonous scribbles of felt-tip-on-paper echoed around the space. The set mirrored their collection perfectly; clean linear forms, flat planes, and an element of frenzy. Strips of white cotton reminiscent of the paper hanging from the ceiling were attached to tunics, emulating pieces of paper that had been paper-clipped to the waist. The duo used heavy shredding throughout, but particularly intense shredding was used on neoprene pieces to recreate paper that had gone through a paper-shredder. This look was created by hand-slashing the garment, to give a less controlled look. The collection also featured more delicate pieces which were hand shredded, and then printed on top of, creating a richness and depth to the texture.
The collection goes back to the designers’ roots, really honing in on the basis of their brand. Their clean, crisp and slightly dishevelled collection really was one of the highlights of London Fashion Week this season. “When we started the label based on shirting, we looked at all the traditional craft and skills that went into it, so that we could say confidently that we are the leaders in directional white shirting. So this season, we have almost just thrown out the rule book and started again!”
Palmer//Harding Autumn/Winter 2014 Looks:
Palmer//Harding Autumn/Winter 2014 Backstage:
Palmer//Harding Autumn/Winter 2014 Illustration:
Runway Photography: Christopher Dadey (Courtesy of Talk PR)
Backstage Photography: Emmanuel Roberts
Fashion Illustration: Scott W. Mason