Take note Prada, Armani and company: Palm Angels is shaking up the fashion world, with celebrities including singer Pharrell Williams and rapper A$AP Rocky donning the Milan-based, skate-inspired brand.

Italian Francesco Ragazzi, 31, is not only hailed as the man bringing an underground energy to otherwise straight-laced Milan, but also the designer who reclaimed the humble tracksuit. Palm Angels, which showed its winter-fall 2017 collection in Milan in January, grabbed the headlines at the start of women's fashion week after the revamped tracksuits sold out as soon as the brand's new online shop went live. Art director at Italy's fashion powerhouse Moncler for his day job, Ragazzi dedicates the rest of his time to his largely unisex line of luxury casual-wear inspired by L.A.'s skate subculture.

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The brand was born in 2015 after he published a book of photographs he had taken of skaters in Venice Beach, with a foreword written by friend and singer Pharrell Williams, known for his songs "Blurred Lines" and "Happy" fame. Moving his Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix-inspired collection from Paris to Milan last year "was a gamble", he told AFP.

"It was a case of let's do something different Milan doesn't have, but I was afraid they wouldn't understand what I'm doing here because everything is so classic in Milan," he said. The pot-smoker, whose designs recall summers spent puffing on spliffs with "skate rats" in the City of Angels, brings an anti-establishment defiance to loungewear, applying high-production values to items usually bought by low-end shoppers. "There is this contrast in my work: very laid back clothes, but made in the best possible way," he said. Case in point: the tracksuit. "It's one of our key items. I like the fact the tracksuit in different cultures represents something different, it's a part of the wardrobe that is really simple, but it says something about who you are and where you are from." "I wanted to make it look cool and relaunch it," he said.

Ragazzi describes his look as "post-preppy": a wardrobe from the East Coast, with Italian stitching and the odd marijuana or smiley face logo. "The double-breasted blazer with gold buttons for me is an icon piece for Palm Angels, but instead of wearing it with chinos and an Oxford shirt, you mix that with a hoodie," he said.

He has made a splash on the hip-hop scene, with American artists from Big Sean to Playboi Carti donning his designs. At 830-euros (878 dollars) for the complete tracksuit (top and bottoms), they are unlikely to be using them for jogging. (AFP)





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