Palm Angels lights up NY Fashion Week with strobes, stags

NEW YORK — With a strobe light show worthy of a seizure warning and classic statuary in clear boxes, Milan streetwear cool guy Francesco Ragazzi brought his celeb-popular Palm Angels brand to New York Fashion Week on Friday for the first time.

And the reason? His explanation wasn't nearly as dramatic as his show.

"A new challenge. I always start with a new challenge, and definitely New York is a great energy. I'm trying to bring my own vision here, just trying to tell my story," Ragazzi told The Associated Press before his models — both men and women — lined up for one last look prior to showtime.

The 39-year-old Ragazzi put out a mix of tailoring in jackets and coats, some outfitted with a loop of chain. Others were a play on hunting and fishing outerwear, loaded with huge external pockets with zips. Some of the looks included a photo patch of a stag ready for a nighttime kill.

"I tried to mix these two worlds and give a contrast that gives energy," said Ragazzi, also art director for the Italian brand Moncler.

There was plenty of energy on his runway that exploded with beams of pulsing light showing off a David (as in Michelangelo) among his encased sculptures. As for the clothes, much of his offerings for fall and winter were true to his street roots in trainers for the feet and hoodies branded with the name of the company he started in 2015. One was emblazoned with a green alien face.

Don't misunderstand. The average skateboarder kid likely can't afford these clothes. Ragazzi sells track jackets in the zone of $500 and little dresses for $600 and more. A few tiny dresses were sculpted in leather this season. But don't call them luxury.

"I don't consider myself luxury," he said. "I think I'm creating, like, a desire. This is what interests me the most, you know. I'm trying to make my product look expensive, but I don't consider myself luxury."

Ragazzi does consider himself driven by his celebrity fans. Before decamping Milan for New York, Ragazzi hoped New York would drop a few A-listers onto his front row. He got French Montana, the rapper Gunna — he smoked throughout the show — and a giddy Alexander Wang.

"When I design a collection, I always think about a celebrity and a celebrity wearing the piece, so when it winds up on a celebrity, I'm happy," Ragazzi said.

Pharrell had a thing or two to do with Palm Angels' buzz.

Ragazzi's first aspiration was to be a fashion photographer. When he hit Los Angeles, he embraced the skate scene in a photo book published by Rizzoli in 2014. He got Pharrell to write the foreword. And away went Palm Angels.

"We sort of became friends. He's a beautiful person. I was happy to stay in touch with him," he said.

Ragazzi said he finds it difficult creatively to differentiate between the more established Moncler and Palm Angels.

"I have a collaboration with them, so I'm very happy to have it," he said, "but I'm also growing my baby, which is Palm Angels."

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