ICON OF PROVOCATION
A TALE ABOUT SUBCULTURE, SEX AND MOTORCYCLES
Mallorcan-born Gori De Palma has been designing clothes from his clandestine Poble Nou studio and home since 2010. He’s garnered a cult following as fashion designer and DJ, regularly gracing the catwalk at Madrid Fashion week and invited to host hip parties around Spain. But rather than mingle in these circles, Gori is much more at home on Poble Nou’s heavy-metal bar circuit, in his workshop reworking vintage jackets, or restoring old motorcycles, another of his great passions.
Text Natasha Drewnicki
Photography Stefan Jermann
When I arrive at Gori’s studio, he’s deep in preparation for Madrid fashion week. One assistant pins khaki fabric to mannequins while another shuffles camouflage print and afghan scarves around the cutting table. A pile of de-constructed 1930s military jackets awaits resurrection in the corner. Gori observes them at work, occasionally tweaking between soft-spoken but firm instruction.
His latest collection, The origin of evil, is all muddy khaki, greys and afghan check, observing “how certain groups of people have created a movement to fight for their democratic freedoms, for economic and socio-political changes in the Arab Spring,” he says. “I see it as a new subculture in itself. Aside from the aesthetic, I was interested in the revolutionary subject, the struggle to change things.”
And isn’t that what subcultures do? They disrupt culture in waves of innovation until the underdog is eventually absorbed into mainstream culture. Gori’s work evokes this disorder of human experience, and his inimitable style has even earned him a Jack Daniels sponsorship, the ultimate rock’n’roll badge of honor. It’s these whisky-drenched nights with kindred spirits that fuel his work.
“When I go to rock bars here in Poble Nou, it’s the skinheads, bikers, punks and aesthetic movements associated with music that move me – new wave, punk, post-punks…” Gori tells me, somewhat dreamily, from his private atelier above the studio. “I’m inspired by values that transcend aesthetics.”
I glance at an almost empty bottle of whiskey on the floor, then at his boots, thick with dried splashes of devil’s liquor and dust. I wonder, beyond the odd smattering of motorbike grease, if they’ve ever been polished. He’s perched on a patchwork quilt that barely covers a sheet-less duvet. A faded painting of the Virgin Mary watches over us. Gori’s delicate, almost bird-like features are quite striking when combined with the pious minimalism of his bedroom, but his tattoos and thick, flame-red beard fortify his appearance.
Gori is drawn to brooding greys and blacks – obsidian, charcoal, onyx, raven and soot are the shades of hard graft. Gori’s collections of threadbare t-shirts and scuffed denim resemble workers’ clothes, echoing the crumbling bricks and mortar that surround him. It’s as if he can’t help but absorb the neighborhood’s industrial landscape through osmosis. He also creates womenswear to channel other aspects of his creative vision. In a previous collection, he used crochet tablecloths and the frothy lace of antique undergarments to evoke these ethereal qualities. The use of vintage textiles means Gori’s pieces are safe from mass production and he often creates one-off pieces for individual clients using clothes that are historical artifacts in their own right.
Some of these revived vintage pieces could have been produced in one of the factories right here over a century ago. But, ironically, you won’t find Gori’s label on a factory line anytime soon. “I’m not against large-scale production and the ideas behind it are great, but I find it very impersonal and lacking in style” he says.
This year Gori will uproot the studio after over five years in the neighborhood. Despite the attractive working environment and cost of living, a bigger workshop further afield has lured him away. “I’m creating a new label that will tie in with a motorbike restoration workshop. The two things I like most in this world – fashion and old motorbikes.”
Gori De Palma’s clothes talk of a subversive decadence that is entirely his own creation. He goes beyond the usual superficiality of fashion with a fiercely individualistic approach that encompasses an entire philosophy of living. “Freedom of expression is my biggest motivation to create.”