N Palmer’s debut collection is a psychedelic look at the glass as half full


Nicholas Palmer launched Collection 1 under his namesake brand N Palmer for his first presentation at London Fashion Week 2021. An MA graduate from the prestigious Central Saint Martins, Collection 1 is the result of his MA practice and a lockdown that forced all of us to dig a little deeper.

An important component of N Palmer is repurposing – an ongoing practice in the brand’s work. In the collection you will find patchwork knitwear and shirts, tops made from repurposed vintage scarves from the 1970’s, and bias striped tops made from cut-up vintage dresses and dead-stock fabric from the decade.

The collection, made during lockdown, conveys a personal and colourful optimism that looks to the future whilst appreciating the past.

We spoke to creative director N Palmer to get the insight on what went into Collection 1.

n palmer

What did you have for breakfast today?

Two cups of coffee with oat milk. I’ve been doing that intermittent fasting thing, so I only eat between 12-8. Technically I’m not supposed to even have coffee or alcohol after those hours but that was impossible, so I do it dirty.

What are some pivotal experiences you’ve had that have shaped your personhood, design process and design aesthetic?

The more I have existed the more comfortable I have become with myself and what I like. Each big move has broadened my design vocabulary, from Indiana to New York and then to London. I don’t know if it has been the isolation of this past year or what, but I truly embraced a give no fucks attitude.

I came to the conclusion that I needed to do what I wanted to do and not second guess myself on what others might think. I think we all have those voices that tell us “oh what will so and so think”. I really thought about the difference of subjectivity and objectivity and to do what I wanted, and if others don’t get it then it isn’t for them (which is perfectly fine, there’s plenty of things that I don’t like) and they can keep that to themselves.

It was also about realizing that you don’t need to try and do everything, do what you can well and remember there’s always a next collection. There may be some ideas you have that are great but just don’t work at this time and use them at a later date.

I knew that for this collection I needed to work on something that brought  joy and optimism. Like everyone I suffered as well and felt really low, if I made a collection that relished that I don’t think it would have been good for my mental health. I wanted escapism that was also realistic, making something that you were excited to put on even if you are working from home, or something fun for a socially distanced meet up or something with a support bubble. Clothes that could be lived in even if it’s just for a dance party for yourself in your bedroom, scenarios that are real and relevant to now that wouldn’t feel out of place in a post lockdown world.

What was the motivation behind your casting choices for collection one?

I knew Odira from when I was at CSM, he was one of the fitting models we used. He nicely agreed to work with me again on this collection. After looking at the photos from the fitting it just made sense to use him. While we were having the fitting and taking photos we were catching up, so some of the images were these candid moments of him smiling or reacting to the conversation. It was those shots of him that inspired the lookbook shoot.

What do you like about the 70s era?

I think that until now it was the last time menswear had a lot more freedom to it, it was more daring and bolder. Obviously, you can look at the costumes of Bowie and Jagger but even what was sold to regular people was more experimental and daring, borderline questionable which is always a lot more interesting. Diana Vreeland has this quote about taste,  “A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste—it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.”

What did you learn during the lockdowns over the past year?

A lot about myself, both good and bad. I know that I rediscovered my empathy, and part of that was seeing a lot of selfish behaviour in others and reflecting on that in myself, being kind is a lot easier than being a jerk. It made me more aware of others, not that was completely disillusioned to begin with but to put words to feelings and ideas I hadn’t thought about as much, like realizing we aren’t the centre of the universe that we’re all far more connected than we think. I saw a lot of entitlement and ignorance in other people and just thought no that’s not who I am or ever want to be and distanced myself. Just the constant complaining about these things which aren’t fundamental human rights, I get it you want to go on holiday, but people are dying. I speak with a lot of hyperbole which some people find off putting but truthfully, I think some people need to be shocked. I became more self-aware, and I was already pretty self-aware.  I forget what it’s from, but I heard this quote that resonated with me it’s about how the world doesn’t exist for us to take from it. It exists for us to contribute and give to it.

Do you have a favourite fashion show of all time?

Oh gosh I can only pick one. There are so many good ones…

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When I first discovered fashion, I had a bit of resentment because womenswear was far more experimental and interesting than men’s (this was in the early 2000s). When I saw Hedi Slimane’s Dior Homme shows that really changed it for me. I had never seen men’s clothes like that, or models who looked like that. That made me more interested in menswear for sure.  

Due to Covid19, fashion week and fashion shows have been digitised for the most part which has made it a lot more accessible. Do you think this will last when restrictions are completely lifted? How do you think this will affect how you present your collections?

I think that there are a lot of designers who will eschew the old way and stay digital, I think that a lot will go back to shows. There is an energy at a fashion show that can’t really be captured from a video, but I do think there was a lot of great digital presentations this year.

For now, strictly digital but I would like to do a show even if it’s not an annual thing but a way to create an immersive experience would be great. It’s sort of every designers dream I think to take a bow at the end. It really feels like a culmination of all the hard work to  have a show.

More than just how collections were presented, designers and companies really came to a lot of realizations on how the industry should function as a whole, it was a hard reset it seemed. Taking a critical look at what is really needed, how many pieces, scaling back I think is a good thing, purifying the essence of a collection and getting your point across without so much spectacle is a much smarter way of functioning going forward.

What’s next for you?

Just keep going, see what happens, start on the next collection.

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