skate to create with palace and adidas originals

King of Palace, Lev Tanju, is the mastermind behind one of the most aspirational skate brands in the world. Launched in London in 2009, with a capsule collection of decks and tees, Palace Skateboards has snowballed into a global lifestyle brand, whose...

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Oct 3 2014, 10:10am

Alasdair McLellan

Two years ago, Palace Skateboards founder Lev Tanju took a flight to Nuremberg to thrash out the prospect of working on a line with the cardinal sportswear legends, Adidas Originals. A year later they were in a theatre, pitching the completed range to their 500-strong global sales team. It's certainly not where he ever projected he'd be when he launched Palace five years ago, in 2009: "It never occurred to me that I'd work with a sportswear brand on a line. But that's how banging the three stripes are, it's a dream come true!"

Over five years, Palace has gone from bootlegging seminal fashion house logos on tees and releasing a brief line of skateboards, to running a team of pro-skateboarders, a range of boards with global distribution, and a fully-realised fashion brand - all absorbed through Lev's unique vision, his distinctly British viewpoint and his singular mantra of "We make what we wear to skate in and then go to the pub." He jokes: "It's getting a bit cheesy because I've said it a thousand times, but I like that stuff."

"There's a room of like 7,000 different types of shell material, you get lost in it all and don't know where you are after a while. We were just laughing!"

During his first trip to Adidas, Lev was escorted to the archive. To begin composing a concept for the range they hoped to design, Lev had sent over a collection of reference points from the brand's history, from a Rocky Marciano jacket to West Germany's Italia 90 football strip to Zinedine Zidane's 2006 World Cup jersey. 

Photography Alasdair McLellan

Met by the archive curator, who is an ex-paleontologist, they put on protective white gloves and started looking through the selected garments. German precision had seen them go one step further than Lev had anticipated: "They brought out a rail of clothes, and the Zidane shirt we requested, and I'm looking at it thinking, 'There's grass stains and a bit of blood on it', and we're looking at it and it's the actual shirt he wore against Italy, when the head-butt happened. I'm like no way! I didn't mean I wanted to see the actual one, I just expected to see a replica or reproduction - it was the same with the Marciano jacket."

It was this attention to detail that drove Lev to collaborate with Adidas. "We wanted to work with Adidas because they make banging sportswear, they can get the best fabrics and jerseys and produce affordable technical outerwear… There's a room of like 7,000 different types of shell material, you get lost in it all and don't know where you are after a while. We were just laughing!" 

The legacy of Adidas is obviously far-reaching, from Wembley Stadium to Queens, Run DMC to the Beastie Boys, the pub to the shopping centre, and there aren't many of us who haven't owned a Firebird track top at some point in our lives. Lev explains that he was very impressed with Adidas Original's ongoing partnership with Jeremy Scott and the faith they have in him to realise his vision. "They let us do exactly what we wanted. We could have gone in and done a leather tracksuit or pink fluffy joggers. Actually, Jeremy Scott's probably already done that!"

A true emblem of the success of Palace is that the former bootleggers are now being bootlegged with a number of rip-offs flooding eBay, all riffing on their now iconic original tri-logo designed by Fergadelic (Marc by Marc Jacobs, Aries, Silas, Hysteric Glamour, X-Girl Japan, Tonite). All cut through with a sense of parody, look out for the upside down tri with 'Defiled' etched across it, and the amusing 'Another Fucking Triangle'. They might be joking, but the 'Tri-Ferg' can now be spotted on street corners from Beijing to Barry Island. It only seems fitting they would work with Adidas, which possibly has one of the most recognisable logos in the history of branding with their three strips and trefoil. The three leaves of the trefoil have now found their home at Adidas Originals; it wasn't long before Palace were up to their old tricks - they re-appropriated the design with Palace in the Adidas font, sitting under the logo, embroidered on a bucket hat.

Previous Palace collaborations have run through casual culture and middle English everyday menswear staples; they've worked with Umbro and the Italia 90 England strip and Reebok and their Classics trainer. And with Adidas Originals the theme has been maintained with a range of tracksuits. "I like comfortable clothes. I like tracksuits. We re-jigged the Firebird. I've always wanted a personalised Firebird. They're amazing track tops, and I've made one in the fabric I wanted with my own logo on it. When you've got it you feel like you're warming up for the Olympics."

"Since I started skating in joggers, I haven't worn anything else. It's the perfect sports material. It's what I wear everyday, innit? I wanted to make the tracksuit of our dreams. Adidas has such power, man. Tracksuit power."

Lev says that the design process was eminently professional: "What they do is the best. We were designing the perfect track suit with a 50-year-old pattern cutter, who's been in the business for 30 years. They brought precision to our way of working, using technical shell materials, and they were really welcoming like a family. Everyone there really cares about what they're doing. Half the time they know what we want before we've even done it."

The ambition behind the range is captured by an image Lev has of the Palace skate team: "All walking up the steps to a jet, all wearing the team tracksuit." 90s silhouettes have been re-engineered with tech fabrics and geometric signatures. Naturally the classic grey jersey jogger set makes an appearance. It might be perfect warm-up gear for a run, but it's ideal for throwing on to go and get bacon and eggs from the corner shop after a heavy night. "I've always worn a nice hoody and joggers - it's perfect for skating," Lev agrees. "Since I started skating in joggers, I haven't worn anything else. It's the perfect sports material. It's what I wear everyday, innit? I wanted to make the tracksuit of our dreams. Adidas has such power, man. Tracksuit power."

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Credits


Text Jeremy Abbott
Photography Alasdair McLellan
Styling Gabriel Pluckrose 
Photography assistance Lex Kembery, James Robjant, Matt Healy.
Retouching Picture House.
Model Blondey McCoy. 
Blondey wears all clothing Palace for Adidas Originals.