Daniel Palillo—a high school, art school then fashion school dropout—never intended to become a fashion designer. Which explains why he avoids the industry as much as he can: rather than following seasonal trends, his work is built on the pillars of art, narrative and his intuition (with humorous flourishes). The result is bold apparel (mostly in the form of oversized tops) that takes a high level of courage to pull off. Musicians, in particular, have shown a lot of love for the Helsinki-based artist, from Hercules and Love Affair to the likes of K-pop queens 2NE1 (Palillo's line is especially popular in Korea and Japan). A refreshing source of creativity and inspiration, Palillo's pieces seem to relay that life is too short to be wearing simple collared shirts or black turtlenecks.
Previous collections have focused on themes like wasted youth, the human invasion of Mars or simply, "Me Against The World." Palillo's new S/S15 collection, "Paintings About The Fashion World," debuts in NYC this week and focuses on abstract portraits that he produced over the past year. With concise titles like "Prophet," "Fat Hipster," and "Twerk," these paintings will be hung at The Hole, accompanied by their apparel spin-offs, sported by mannequins (or "statues" as Palillo describes them), in lieu of models. We caught up with Palillo at the gallery as he took a break from moving gigantic boxes to answer our questions in charming accented English.
"I first did the paintings; I started around Christmastime [last year]," Palillo tells CH. "And the paintings inspired the new collection. I've been doing fashion from 2006, and commercially, from 2008. It's kind of about what I experienced during that time. That's why it's called "Paintings About the Fashion World." It was easy for Palillo to then translate the 2D artworks to 3D apparel. "If I look at that cardboard box, the first thing I start to imagine is where I would put the sleeves and where I would put the head hole. There's one painting called 'Dream'—clothing is kind of a nightmare for me because I can't ever escape it. Wherever I look, I start to imagine clothing..."
He remembers that his last runway show was about six years ago, but hasn't done one since because he "never liked it." With his Spring/Summer '15 samples adorning mannequins this weekend, there will be plenty of opportunity to look over each and every detail, up close. And, to further this artistic concept, each garment from this collection is limited to 50 of each piece, and will be numbered—a first for the Finnish creative.
While wearable tech and fabric innovations make up much of recent fashion news, Palillo takes a wholly different approach. "I've never been interested in materials—I like basic materials," he says. "I like the challenge of taking a basic thing and creating something beautiful out of that. [In contrast] to take a beautiful fabric and make simple clothing—it's not so challenging."
"For me, clothing has been about the concept and not so much about being basic," he continues. "If you wear my clothing, it's always kind of kind of a conversation piece—people always want to start talking about it. I think that's the beauty of that—it's not for everyone. I mean, it is for everyone, but I wouldn't like to make things that everybody likes. For me, it's much more interesting to make things that some people really like, and then some people dislike."
"I haven't followed fashion in seven years or something. I haven't opened a fashion magazine [for a while], and fashion is not something that I've been interested in—so I kind of have no idea what's happening in the industry." His avoidance has led to pieces that feel truly fresh and embody Palilllo's own personal expression.
"I changed a lot," reflects Palillo, on his evolution as a designer. "At first I studied art. I quit that. Then I went to study fashion, and I realized that I'm not interested in fashion; I quit that. And I ended up opening a shop, and then we ran out of money in the process of opening the shop. We had to have some stuff to sell, so my only option was to make some clothes for the shop—and those clothes became very popular. And soon, other stores started buying it. So I kind of ended up in the fashion industry; I never planned it. In 2008, when I realized that I ended up doing this commercial collection, I set some rules—or lines that I follow in my collection. And I think—all this collection—is about redefining the collection. This is the person I am now. It's Daniel Palillo 2.0, like the new updated iPhone," he laughs. "For me, this is a very important collection."
The "Paintings About The Fashion World" exhibition opens at 7PM tomorrow, Friday 5 September, and runs through Sunday 7 September, 2014 at The Hole (312 Bowery, NYC). Palillo's previous collections can be purchased at International Playground.
Portrait by Nara Shin for Cool Hunting, all other images courtesy of Daniel Palillo