Alejandro Gómez Palomo (1992) is a fashion designer from Posadas, Córdoba. Better known as Palomo Spain, he founded his own eponymous label in 2015 after graduating in Men’s Fashion from the London College of Fashion. In 2016 he presented his first collection in Madrid, and from there he continued to rise.
His collections found a place at key spots such as the Opening Ceremony in New York and Carina Rotfield's CR Fashion Book, and he was soon considered a new talent in Spanish fashion. After Beyoncé posed on Instagram with one of his dresses in the photo where he presented her twins, he was invited to New York Men's Fashion Week, and later he presented his collection ¡Palomo, por favor! in Paris, achieving a 300% increase in sales. In 2018, Palomo Spain was the first Spanish brand invited by the Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode to present their work. Since then and until today, celebrities, the press and consumers have hailed the "Palomo universe" as a phenomenon of its own unique idiosyncrasy.
Palomo designs for men and seeks to give them “greater freedom” than that offered by mainstream men's fashion. Ruffles, colors, feathers, fabrics and embroidery, which have traditionally been associated with women's clothing, slip into the men's wardrobe thanks to the creativity of this designer who, without raising any flag and without limits, makes the world turn around and want to know more about him.
On October 13th, Palomo will be participating in the conference "D-generated: rethinking fashion and gender" that the Design Museum organizes jointly with GREDITS (Design and Social Transformation Research Group) of the BAU School of Design as part of the Bienal+ activities, within the framework of the Biennial of Thought "Ciutat Oberta”.
What do you think you are contributing to in fashion?
I think the main thing that I have created is a new option for man, so that he can dress with all the freedom in the world, a freedom that he did not have or that was difficult to find. I wanted to give men the same opportunity that women have always had to enjoy fashion, details, different types of cuts and, after all, the work and crafts behind it.
The genderless concept for me came later, in fact when we started with Palomo Spain I didn't even know what it was. I have only sought to give an option that, though I know it’s not for everyone, it fits with men like me who have searched all their lives for something different –a particular fabric or embroidery, a special color or a feather– and for that we have had to resort to women’s clothes.
It is true that men's fashion tends to be quite neutral.
In recent years we have seen that many brands advance and take risks, and with this trend of sensitizing men and giving them a bit of femininity, we see how fashion changes little by little. Even so, it is always the same type of cut and colours; it is still difficult to give up to the codes associated with us: suit, pants and sweater.
It almost looks like a uniform.
The suit jacket was imposed at the end of the 19th century as the “standard” clothing for men, and since then it is basically how we have dressed. The most elegant outfit a man can wear nowadays is a suit. You realize, for example, at a gala, how much a woman can fantasize about clothes, and the man has no choice but to wear a tuxedo. We are very limited, as much as we dare to play in the tux.
Do these clothes hide your femininity?
I don't know if they hide it but it sure does not develop it. Femininity can be extremely attractive in a man, and it doesn't have to take away his virility at all. Taking out and developing that feminine part can be something super sexy and attractive.
You commented that you have always looked for “the different”.
Since I was little I have had a tremendous attraction to fashion and I have dressed differently. My mother had to buy my clothes in girl stores. As a teenager I dressed with more criteria and intention, but always with the need to differentiate myself, something that in Spain we do not tend to do: it seems that we are all very comfortable when some brand takes out a dress and you go out and see a thousand people with that same dress. It gives us a kind of comfort that I have never understood.
You live in a small town in Córdoba, in Posadas. What did your way of dressing generate there?
I was always a very strange child and nobody understood what was going through my head, but luckily I was always a fairly confident person. Based on this confrontation, everyone has gotten used to my existence being like this, and they could talk about it and comment on it, but I never felt attacked. Sometimes they even look at me more in the city than in my town, because there they already know how I am, and there comes a time when you stop surprising people.
How was Palomo Spain born?
I think in a very natural way. I played with Barbies and made them dresses with fabrics that were around the house: my neighbour has a Canarian mother and she always gave us fabrics from the Canary Islands carnival. I have that image of magic and colours at home, and I remember admiring the figure of the drag queen from a very young age. My grandmother has also sewn all her life at home, and with her I could go further and propose to make skirts for my Barbies with scraps of fabric. On the other hand, both my mother and my aunts have had a taste for fashion: without knowing much, they have always wanted to dress well, establishing a beautiful relationship with what they wore, and I loved going to shops with them. My parents gave me a lot of freedom and they have always let me be as I wanted.
A cultural breeding ground.
So did the fact of living in a small town with certain customs and traditions of popular culture. During the “feria” we have dresses, a hat, a sash, the high-waisted trousers, the shirt… and then all the ruffles and the colour, that has influenced me a lot. Just like the “Church and Holy Week” moment, that although I do not agree with the role of the Church, I have grown up surrounded by that: a child fascinated by the gold-embroidered velvet robe worn by the priest, and then by the mantle of the Virgin. Hence, there is a lot of iconography that I have in my head.
When do you receive training?
At the age of 10 I read all the Vogue and Elle magazines and I knew all the names of all the models, the designers, and what they were doing each season. I lined my school folder with Versace campaigns. I discovered Versace and his history, then John Galliano, who is one of my great references. At that point I already knew that I wanted that.
How did you get to London?
I traveled there for the first time at the age of 14 and realized that it is my place, that I want to study there and spend a part of my life there. I was fascinated by the way people dress there, including the men: they had a freedom that I had never seen. From the age of 14 to 18 all my effort was put into having perfect English and convincing my parents to let me go to London at 18. I studied Men's Fashion Design and Technology at the London College of Fashion, and worked two years with a curator of vintage haute couture, at Liberty. That's when I really understood how designer clothes are made: I was in contact with pieces from the Victorian era, the 1920s ... thousands of hours sorting out clothes, touching everything and seeing how each seam was made. That experience, together with my studies, was creating in my head the idea of Palomo Spain as we know it today.
Why is it important that men can dress with colours, ruffles and ornamentation in general?
I think man must be complete, right? The way we dress reflects who we are on the inside, and when you dress in a certain way you can develop a certain sensitivity, instead of having it hidden, and discover parts of yourself that you are not used to knowing. That puts us all on the same level, it gives us the same opportunity to feel in a certain way.
Do you think that men are also oppressed?
Of course. It is obvious that women have taken the worst of it, but the man understood as macho may feel very comfortable or may not feel that way at all. We have forgotten a large number of men who have also lived locked up in that idea that society has imposed.
However, you never send any political message.
Well, I believe in this without having to become vindictive. There are already many young boys who, regardless of their sexuality, like to paint their nails, paint their hair pink, one day put on a skirt and go out skateboarding ... but the nice thing is that it starts to be obvious by itself, and it has to be in the face of everyone so that the new generations connect and grow with this normality. I don't think you have to expose yourself to a man who has been educated in a nuns' school and who is never going to do his nails, because for him that is always going to be "queer." It doesn’t seem necessary to confront the old generations so much but to normalize with the modern ones.
Does that connect with not defining your work as genderless?
It's not that I don't want to define it that way – it's that we didn't start with that idea. That was imposed later, and now of course I understand that my work is genderless, but Palomo Spain started as a brand for men, which understood men in a different way and in which men did whatever they wanted. And whether we like it or not, men and women have completely different bodies and it is not the same to design for one body as for the other. It is very complicated that there is clothing that works for both genders.
Breaking with the gender binary is an issue that is on the social agenda. Do you think that fashion should reflect the concerns of society?
Of course. Today fashion plays a fundamental role in this: I believe that if you are not giving an inclusive message in every way, you are out of date. Fashion is something aspirational, we read ourselves through it, and there are certain canons or certain messages that have to change. That is why the responsibility of fashion is to correspond with what is happening at all times, speak about it and be part of it.
What about sustainable design and production?
For me it is fundamental. From making a fabric with recycled plastic, to having small or local productions. We produce mainly in Posadas and Zaragoza. I believe this begins by giving work to the local people, by creating employment in the town itself, and by maintaining a more than decent workforce. We also host fashion design students from all over Europe for internships.
Do you think that part of your success lies in your naturalness?
I think so. I just want to do my thing and I let the rest do what they want. I don't like being provocative, and if I provoke I don't think I do it from the ugly, the obscene or the unintelligible. We have always provoked from beauty, we have offered new sensations to an audience that is attracted by what we offer, that thinks “I like it even though I don't quite understand it, but there is something here that is evocative and beautiful”. We have always promoted beauty and freedom, and that everyone can do whatever they want with their life.