fergus purcell's palace of dreams
Fergus Purcell’s drawings have helped to launch Palace Skateboards and to re-launch Marc By Marc Jacobs, but it hasn’t happened overnight. His story is an inspiration to everyone out there still chasing their dreams.
Fergus Purcell makes the most sought-after graphics in fashion right now. He's dreaming up visuals for Palace Skateboards - he came up with the triangle logo that sells out T-shirts as soon as they turn up - and for the new Marc By Marc Jacobs under Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley, starting with their motocross girl gang for autumn/winter 14. Tall and thin with long wizard-like hair and thick-rimmed glasses, Fergus is covered in amazing lo-fi tattoos: there's a peace sign, a bunny rabbit saying, "Eat, sleep, fuck", a ninja, the words "Pizza time" - all sorts of randomness. He speaks with a soft lilt, in a very considered manner, and tells captivating tales about the last 30 years of youth culture...
Where did you find your alternative culture?
In Forbidden Planet! I was a comic nerd. It was its own subcultural meeting point. What about skating? I was crap. But I was really into it.
What was Central Saint Martins like?
Socially, Saint Martins was amazing because there was such a diversity of people. There was always this awesome, almost like catwalk show of the fashion girls, they looked fantastic, done-up to the nines, just beautiful. Meanwhile the sculptor guys would come in looking as though they'd worked just as hard at looking scruffy.
What happened after university?
It felt like, 'I'm going to do my thing or I'm going to go and stack shelves at Tesco's. I don't want to use this thing that I love for something I don't believe in.' So I signed on for four and a half years. I called myself a dole-queue apprentice at the time. I was sat in my bedroom really trying to do my thing. I wasn't just fucking around.
And after four and a half years, what happened?
Things started to gel. This whole time the one really good thing I'd done was graphics for Slam City Skates. It was just enough to know that's what I should be doing.
How did you become involved in Palace?
Have you met Lev [Tanju]; he's irresistible, isn't he? I just hit it off with him straight away. We shared magic mushrooms and things like that over the years, and one day he said he was starting up his brand and he wanted to call it Palace, and would I do a graphic for them? That was the triangle? Yeah, Lev said it's going to be all about triangles, which he subsequently completely forgot that he said. Palace is so popular in the fashion world now.
How have streetwear and fashion become so close?
I think they belong together. Since the 80s that's really how it's been. Vivienne Westwood, BodyMap, that sort of thing - John Galliano even - they were really about that interface between a multicultural street-level style and the catwalk. Now it's come back to this place where, quite rightly, the catwalk is looking to the street and vice versa. Which is as it should be, and I don't know why people think that skaters wouldn't like fashion? Look at all the graphics that skateboarding has nicked from fashion.
How did your graphics for Marc By Marc Jacobs come about?
Luella [Bartley] and Katie [Hillier] had seen the Palace stuff and were very into it. Luella sends her kid to the same school as my friend. So one school run they were chatting and she passed on my contact. It was a real thrill to work with people like that, an absolute dream job I must say.
Text Dean Kissick
Photography Morgan O'Donovan