How to describe a Palomo Spain show? It is, altogether, highly intimate—akin to the largely lost practice of salon presentations—utterly mad, fearlessly proud, and, foremost, emotional. A young man who walked—wearing a periwinkle bouclé jacket with bunched Bermuda shorts and knee-high, heeled boots—evinced as much, as tears dappled his makeup during the finale.
Alejandro Gómez Palomo’s label caught the American market’s eye when the designer brought it to New York last February. Back then, he was an outlier that few had heard of locally. But soon, he started garnering attention: Who was this sensitive Spaniard who operates somewhere in the flowery ether between costume and camp, debutante and drag, and couture and cross-dressing? And, to that point about his material, questions arose: Does it even matter what the distinction is? Should a distinction be made? Putting it on the line—men in women’s clothing—sounds and reads outdated, but, such is what much of Palomo Spain does. The designer’s purpose and point, though—and this was further proven by his Spring 2018 show tonight in Madrid—is that gender binarism (or any form of self-identification therein) really doesn’t and shouldn’t matter when someone is enjoying themselves at the party. If a person who sees himself as a man wants to dress up in a Montana- or Mugler-esque suit with fuck-me boots and a red lip, let him and love it. Likewise, if a woman wants to wear this “menswear” brand—as Beyoncé did in her Instagram revelation of her new twins, now with over 10.2 million likes—she will do so fantastically.
Beyoncé’s publicity helped, but even without it, Palomo Spain was growing on its own—and Spring demonstrated that Palomo can move, not always perfectly but certainly with narrative clout, within the niche that he’s opened. The theme this season was "Hotel Palomo," which took over Madrid’s actual Hotel Wellington. Postcards accompanying the show notes featured lobby-art drawings by Jordi Labanda—the kind of fabulous cue that what was to follow was going to be decadent and delirious in the way that only a hotel can make you feel (the transience, the secrets, the potentially suggestive eye-contacts, and the resultant one-night stands). And definitely tawdry.
What resulted was a borderline Wes Andersonian, sometimes Prada-ish romp through a once-grand old inn, its ghosts still looking for sex and trouble, its devastatingly beautiful twin bellmen swinging their keys provocatively. There was a towel series; Jacob Bixenman wore a one-shouldered toga while another model yawned in a headpiece mimicking the terry swans that honeymooners sometimes find on their beds. Robes transitioned to twinsets, which then moved to long dresses—some with metallic patinas—to blazers, flamenco ruffles, and loads of illusion gowns. (Worth noting: Much of Palomo’s fabrics are vintage and the designer and his team know how to work them—everything looked very well made.) Rossy de Palma danced in a sultry wrap dress lined in thick, dusty feathers—a glorious vision of a more glorious time. Perhaps it was fitting that Lindsay Lohan sat front row. Though not of the same era, she was the queen of her zeitgeist, and that Palomo was able to communicate a kind of perverse nostalgia (or possibly even upbeat sadness) through all of this variety and vividness—and then surround it with yet more of it—was impressive.
The final outcome was something that also sparked thoughts of The Shining; Poconos’ love motels with martini-glass hot tubs; and the girls (or boys) who didn’t quite get to debut at the Crillon and had to settle for their own, less elite (but no less glam, in the end) rungs on the social ladder. With his storytelling capabilities—and his openness and bravery, really—Palomo stands pretty much in his own corner of fashion right now. Even if you write his work off as costume or kitsch, there are at least guts and struggle and heart stacked deep behind that surface. Watch him closely.
To view on Vogue Runway, click here.