Mallorcan born Gori De Palma has been designing womenswear from his clandestine Poblenou studio and home since 2010. He’s garnered a cult following as fashion designer and DJ, regularly gracing the catwalk at Madrid Fashion Week and invited to host hip parties around Spain. But rather than mingle in these circles, Gori is much more at home on Poblenou’s heavy-metal circuit, in his workshop reworking vintage jackets, or restoring old motorcycles, another of his great passions.
When I arrive at Gori’s studio, he’s deep in preparation for Madrid Fashion Week. One assistant pins khaki fabric to mannequins while another shuffles camouflage print and afghan scarves around the cutting table. A pile of de-constructed 1930s military jackets awaits resurrection in the corner. Gori observes them at work, occasionally tweaking between soft-spoken but firm instruction.
His AW 2015 collection, The Source of Evil, is all muddy khaki, greys and afghan check, a meditation on “how certain groups of people have created a movement to fight for their democratic freedoms, for economic and socio-political changes in the Arab Spring,” he tells me.
“I see it as a new subculture in itself. Aside from the physical designs I was interested in the revolutionary subject, the struggle to change things.” And isn’t that what subcultures do? They disrupt culture in waves of innovation until the underdog is eventually absorbed into mainstream culture. Gori’s work evokes this disorder of human experience and his inimitable style has even earned him a Jack Daniels sponsorship, the ultimate rock’n’roll badge of honour. It’s these whiskey-drenched nights with kindred spirits that fuel his work.
“When I go to rock bars here in Poblenou, it’s the skinheads, bikers, punks and aesthetic movements associated with music that move me – new wave, punk, post-punks…”
In a previous collection, crochet tablecloths and the frothy lace of antique undergarments evoke ethereal femininity. Using vintage textiles, Gori’s pieces are safe from mass production – he often creates one-off pieces for individual clients using clothes that are historical artefacts in their own right. Some of these revived vintage pieces could have been produced in one of Poblenou’s factories right here over a century ago, but the label will never be produced on a factory line. “I’m not against large-scale production, but I find it very impersonal and lacking in style,” he says.
I glance at an almost empty bottle of whiskey on the floor, then at his boots, thick with dried splashes of devil’s liquor and dust. He’s perched on a patchwork quilt that barely covers a sheet-less duvet. A faded painting of the Virgin Mary watches over us. Gori’s bird-like features are quite striking when combined with the pious minimalism of his bedroom, but his tattoos and thick, flame-red beard fortify his appearance.
Gori is drawn to brooding greys and blacks – obsidian, charcoal, onyx, raven and soot are the shades of hard graft. His collections of threadbare t-shirts and scuffed denim resemble workers’ clothes, echoing the crumbling bricks and mortar that surround him. It’s as if he can’t help but absorb the neighbourhood’s industrial landscape through osmosis.
This year Gori will uproot the studio after over five years here. Despite the attractive working environment and cost of living, a bigger workshop has lured him further afield. “I’m creating a new label that will tie in with a motorbike restoration workshop: two things I like most in this world – fashion and old motorbikes.”
Gori De Palma’s clothes talk of a subversive decadence that reflect his approach to life. He goes beyond the usual superficiality of fashion with a fiercely individualistic approach that encompasses an entire philosophy of living. “Freedom of expression is my biggest motivation to create.”