Francesco Ragazzi

All photos by Jake Nevins.

I first encountered Palm Angels, the luxury Milanese streetwear label, when I came across a photo of Lamar Jackson, quarterback for my favorite football team, strolling into MetLife Stadium in a head-to-toe look by the brand, a diamond-encrusted Baltimore Ravens pendant hanging from his neck. Immediately, my curiosity was piqued. I’d come to discover that the embrace of the brand by some of the world’s greatest athletes was no accident: Palm Angels, in fact, had begun as a book of black-and-white photographs by creative director Francesco Ragazzi, whose artful documentation of the Los Angeles skateboarding scene spawned a loyal legion of fans and, eventually, a label of its own, one firmly committed to the fusion of American sportswear with a sense of Italian refinement. It was fitting, then, that when the Netflix series Formula 1: Drive to Survive spurred a considerable boost in interest in racing, Ragazzi, who grew up watching Formula 1 with his father in Monza, was ready to make his move. Fast forward to last weekend’s Miami Grand Prix, where Palm Angels dressed the drivers for the American Haas Team, including Nico Hülkenberg and Kevin Magnussen. To mark the partnership, the brand invited Interview to spend a few days in Miami, a joyride of a weekend that included a visit to the four-day dinner pop-up Carbone Beach (with appearances by Ludacris, Tyreek Hill, and Ivanka Trump, among others), a party at a $49 million mansion overlooking the Biscayne Bay, and, of course, the Grand Prix itself, where I got to watch the action from the best seat in the house: the MoneyCoin Haas garage.


JAKE NEVINS: Good morning.

FRANCESCO RAGAZZI: Hey, how’s it going?

NEVINS: Sorry to interrupt your breakfast.

RAGAZZI: No, no. I’m always doing two things at the same time.

NEVINS: How’s your weekend been?

RAGAZZI: Good, good, good. Not bad being in Miami. Whenever it’s work in Miami, it’s never really work.

Francesco Ragazzi

NEVINS: Well, no one works in Miami. But that’s a good place to start. You’ve always talked about Palm Angels as a fusion of Italian and American sensibilities. Miami has a similarly transatlantic vibe, right?

RAGAZZI: Yeah, of course. I think it’s connected to the brand’s DNA, starting from palm trees. And Palm Angels has always been a mix of East Coast/West Coast with Italy, so it’s really part of the story of the brand. The truth is, I always been around this area because I grew up with my parents being between Palm Beach and Italy. So it’s really a part of me, too.

NEVINS: Oh, I didn’t know that. My dad also lives in Palm Beach. So obviously, eight years ago, the brand started as an offshoot of your incredibly successful book of skate photographs. Now, you’re venturing into another sport with wheels: Formula 1. How did this collaboration start?

RAGAZZI: I’ve always been a fan of Formula 1 because I grew up watching races with my father. But  I think everything changed with Drive to Survive. They gave me a second chance to go back and watch it, but it also brought a new audience. Kids started watching it and became interested in the sport, all the new races. So I think this is a way of speaking to a new generation of Formula 1 fans with Palm Angels. All the big sponsorships are almost impossible for a brand like Palm Angels. We are big but not huge. So I say, if we do something, it doesn’t need to be a sponsorship, it needs to be a partnership, where we really do something that feels different for the world of Formula 1, for the world of fashion.

Francesco Ragazzi

NEVINS: You didn’t just want to throw the logo on something.

RAGAZZI: No. I want to really develop a collection, do an activation in Miami, in Monte Carlo, bring our crowd to the Formula One crowd. Like last night, it really was friends of the brand and the word of Formula 1 mixed together. This is what I love.

NEVINS: Well yesterday at the race, it occurred to me that there’s something very  utilitarian about the driver’s uniforms. They have to do a lot of things besides merely look good. They have to be functional about it and it needs to function in the intense heat of a small car. So I’m curious, when you were conceiving of the actual uniforms, how did you go about marrying the functional necessities of race wear with the Palm Angels aesthetic?

RAGAZZI: Well, we also wanted to change the idea of merchandise. All the Formula 1 brands, they’re cheap merchandise. We wanted to step away from that and do a sort of a collection that feels like sportswear but refined, something you can wear at the race but also for the race. We’re always trying to take something and elevate it to the maximum extent.

Francesco Ragazzi

NEVINS: Right. You mentioned watching F1 with your dad as a kid. What do you remember about that?

RAGAZZI: Living in Italy, it’s easy to be a fan of Ferrari, and that leads you to watch F1 races. Living close to Monza, where the races are, it’s in the spirit of Italians to be passionate about sports car, you know? So it’s almost like soccer. On Sundays, you either watch a football game or a Formula 1 race. It’s a moment where you come together with your family, with your friends. It’s something more than just sport. It brings people together, which is nice.

NEVINS: Like you said, Drive to Survive sparked a ton of interest in F1. But your interest in the sport preceded that. When did you decide you wanted to get involved?

RAGAZZI: Exactly, now there’s always more excitement around it. I remember when they first did the first Grand Prix in Miami, it looked like the Super Bow, this huge, huge event. I really want to tap into this opportunity. So I remember we approached Haas and we presented like a crazy dek, you know? I said, “Listen, we want to do this, we want to do that.” Then we met somebody from Haas who was really receptive and really understood that this could be a great opportunity for them too to bring new customers, a new audience. If you make something cool, then people want to come. And this is kind of what happened. They understood the opportunity. I wouldn’t say we were the very first ones, but we were the first to do it right.

Francesco Ragazzi

NEVINS: Americans are generally pretty willing to embrace a spectacle like this, especially if it looks cool. 

RAGAZZI: Yeah. And we are all about putting things together that don’t really necessarily blend. But they bring something new, something exciting. The Italian brand with an American team. I love to combine new energies and create something exciting.

NEVINS: The first time I saw Palm Angels was when the quarterback for my favorite football team wore a head-to-toe Palm Angels look entering the stadium for a game. I was like, “Okay, this shit is cool.”

RAGAZZI: Really? Who’s that?

NEVINS: Lamar Jackson.

RAGAZZI: Oh wow.

NEVINS: Are you familiar with him?

RAGAZZI: Yeah, yeah, of course.

NEVINS: He’s been MVP of the NFL twice. You’re a sports fan, right?

RAGAZZI: I am, to some extent. I love soccer. I love Formula 1. This is an exciting moment for them and for fashion. Sportsmen were the worst dressed men in the ’80s. Imagine in the ’80s, the basketball players. It was really bad. They were not recognized by the world of fashion.

NEVINS: But it’s changed a lot. Now you’ve got Russell Westbrook wearing Thom Browne kilts. We just put Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in our magazine.

RAGAZZI: Now, it’s really where you want to be.

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