And the rest is just luck and timing
Modeconnect chatted to GPP last year, and since, the iconic illustrator released her second book titled Adam to Yves, which with a satirical leaning provide amusing fashion anecdotes through the ages. Palmer, also a talented writer, chronologically pens memorable moments in history. Cleverly illuminating every page, each historical event (in no particular order) is defined by a different fashion illustration.
Other than illustrating and writing, Palmer has had a long career in education bestowing her knowledge on budding fashion stars. Famously, Palmer taught Howard Tanguy, an artist in his own right and for many years head of the Fashion Design BA course at London Central Saint Martin’s. Certainly, Palmer is leaving a profound influence on the students at the Academy of Art University. Palmer has served as the Executive Director of Fashion at the Academy ever since accepting the position 1995 simply as a reason to stop working in her pajamas, as Palmer lightheartedly notes in her new book.
Since her tenure here, Palmer has worked side-by-side with Director of Fashion Simon Ungless to transform the fashion school into the reputable and distinguished program that it is today. In fact, in just ten years, the fashion school’s enrollment increased from only 200 students to more than two thousand.
Yet amidst all of the Academy of Art’s success, Palmer finds most satisfaction in serving as a mentor for the students and guiding them as best she can toward a successful fashion career.
Like all of us Palmer was once a young hopeful, studying first at St. Martin’s School of Art in London (where she also taught) and later at Parsons School of Design in New York.
“I love working with students because they are the same as me,” said Palmer. “It is my turn now to provide help and support to the students just like all the people who were positive in helping me when I was at the beginning of everything and they were further down the line. It’s a really satisfying feeling.”
Never one to stand by and watch Palmer encourages others to do the same no matter what the circumstances. Her book denotes how she “drew all day and at night… dreamed of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar” while studying fashion illustration at Parsons. And drawing all day paid off. After being consistently blown off for an appointment at Vogue and having her portfolio ridiculed by one of the school’s visiting art directors, Palmer landed a commission of nine pages of drawings at Harper’s Bazaar. This moment propelled her fashion career.
Palmer has definitely seen her share of ups and downs both personally and within the industry. She has learned the business well and knows what it takes to succeed.
“Work and work and work hard and push and push and push,” she continued. “The rest is just luck and timing.”
As Palmer shared her insights into the chutes and ladders of the fashion world, the subject of the industry’s negative outlook on Fashion Week arose. Both Eric Wilson at the New York Times, and Suzy Menkes at the International Herald Tribune, recently wrote about Fashion Week’s overall downhill spiral and the industry’s lack of enthusiasm for “yet another show.”
Wilson describes how Fashion Week first started as an intimate invitation for buyers and journalists to come view designers’ latest collections. It has now turned into a over populated month-long circus that induces panic into even the most experience designers. These shows are opened to thousands as “hordes of indeterminate somebodies who for various reasons Really Must Be There” elbow away industry professionals. The events themselves are crowded, noisy, commercialized and overcome by additional exhibits from sponsors. Wilson and Menkes ask, whether all this is necessary when shows are broadcast on the Internet and the latest designs are in stores before the next season even begins. Fashion Week has lost its illustriousness and exclusivity.
The first hand witness of many Fashion Weeks, Palmer had her own opinion too.
“I think both Suzy Menkes and Eric Wilson are spot on about their assessment of what Fashion Week has become,” said Palmer to continue “that’s what we’ve been asking ourselves ever since I started in fashion,” adding “just like Eric Wilson said, people were even complaining in the 1940s. People in fashion complain. And they like to complain and they go on and on and on.”
Whether or not the industry will ever stop complaining, Palmer has enjoyed capturing the fashion and the personalities that emerge during these events, illustrating everything and everyone imaginable – Ellie Sabb, Dior, Valentino, Chanel and McQueen to name a few.
London, Paris, Milan, New York and abroad, Palmer has travelled the world in the name of fashion to document the work of these designers. These are the cities, Palmer says, where you meet all the right people.
“Make these connections and then you can do your work wherever you want.”
Palmer has chosen for the time being to continue doing her work in San Francisco where she resides with her husband, writer and opera producer Simon Palmer. However, New York holds a special place in her heart.
“Honestly I don’t have a lot of time for things other than work when I come here,” said Palmer knowingly to a fellow San Franciscan. “But what I love about New York is that its flat and you can walk everywhere.”