palmer//harding was founded in April 2011 by Levi Palmer (right above) and Matthew Harding (left above).
We are opposites of each other in many ways and this is reflected in the methods that we create our collections together. Levi is much more fluid in his approach to design; draping on the mannequin, cutting and slashing fabric into form. Matthew gives Levis’ fluid expressions structure and rigour, fusing the balance of ourselves in everything we create.
Levi Palmer, originally from Belton Texas, first became interested in fashion as a teenager in the early 90’s. He describes himself as an awkward youth and was often bullied for being gay. At the age of 15 he was introduced to the goth subculture and fell in love with the influence that fashion can have over the wearer and the viewer. After a brief stint in Austin, TX, where he explored the alternative club scene, he moved to Dallas to study Pattern Cutting at El Centro College in downtown Dallas in the early 2000’s. During his studies he won an award from Fashion Group International to study in London and Paris over the summer of 2003. It was during this summer that Levi decided he needed to find a way to make London his home. After returning to Dallas Levi spent the next year applying for a place on the BA course at Central Saint Martins where he was offered a place. Here he met Matthew in 2007 and graduated from the BA Menswear Fashion course in 2009.
Matthew Harding, originally from Rickmansworth, England, always had both a creative and logical mind as a teenager but chose to follow a creative path for the sense of freedom that creation gives. Matthew studied at Central Saint Martins for 7 years, completing the foundation course, BA Womenswear Fashion and MA Fashion course under the tutelage of Professor Louise Wilson (OBE). Louise brought the best out in Matthew, helping him to recognise what was already within him, creating a decisive, objectively creative mind. He graduated from the MA in 2010, opening the graduate show (which shows on schedule during London Fashion Week). His graduate collection met industry praise winning the Knack Weekend competition in Belgium as well as a collaboration with British retailer Topshop.
We founded palmer//harding in 2011 on a shoe string budget, using the money won in Belgium and through the Topshop collaboration. Being broke ex-students at the depths of the recession, we relocated to Rickmansworth - to Matthews’ parents house and took over his childhood bedroom to create our first studio. At the time no designer brand was focusing on designing innovative shirting and we saw an opportunity for us to create a unique position in the designer market. We also could only afford one role of white poplin. Though our innovative approach to our business model we were awarded NewGen support from the British Fashion Council in September 2011 where we launched our first collection with 17 white shirts.
Fast forward to 2015, where we were awarded financial and mentoring support from the The Fashion Trust, which helped to implement many new business strategies resulting in a lot of growth for the business. That year we also moved into East London where, for a while our offices were in a live/work space. This living/working condition allowed us to drop certain formal barriers which are common in the fashion industry and allowed us to create a business ethos which strives to cultivate an environment that encourages a live work balance and a family attitude. On that note, in 2016 Matthews’ father Paul joined the company and started to manage our logistics and his mother Suzanne joined part time a year later, managing our book keeping and invoicing.
In 2017 we won the BFC Vogue Designer Fashion Fund prize, cementing our mark on the British fashion industry and in 2018 we moved into our current offices in Fanshaw Street, maintaining the family feeling in our growing company.
A friendly and balanced work culture is something that we embrace and encourage in our business. The fashion industry is riddled with stories of teams being over worked and hierarchical egos creating toxic environments. We believe that teamwork, a balanced life and respect are the best methods of achieving the greatest results, and so far we have not had any proof otherwise. In fact if you want to see the results of a great work environment check out our instagram during Halloween, its something we take very serious at palmer//harding!
Our team are our family, and we feel that every person who buys a piece of palmer//harding becomes a part of that family as well.