Some Collabs Just Look Patpong

Palace Gucci: a tad sad

By Ray Zhang

When an Italian luxury label meets an English streetwear brand, the result is not unexpected: a “hit”, which reads to me, crass commercialism. Not that that would be a problem with so many of these high-low collaborations. Nor, a turn-off to the still-many who are enchanted by such hype-over-substance pairings. But, as it appears to me, Palace Gucci is positively beng in their abstinence from subtlety. This is not Gucci’s first attempt at enticing sports brands to be part of their can’t-miss-it style. There was The North Face last December and, this year, Adidas. And it has been unequal in the aesthetic balance, with Gucci quite overwhelming the other—possibly in the pursuit of star billing. It isn’t clear why Palace needs Gucci; it isn’t to me. Even with considerable effort, I really can’t see the point when a visual high is not the result of two brands coming together.

I think it’s just me. I am seriously bored with these collaborations, just as I am with film stars/celebrities going into the beauty business. I have to keep reminding myself that such alliances are formed for brand recognition than design. This is the only way to explain the cheap-looking Gucci logo on the “track jacket” I’ve selected for the photo-illustration above. What struck me most is how similar it looks to the plethora of knock-offs you’d find in, say, Patpong. This night market and entertainment district in central Bangkok came to mind because it was here that I have encountered garment of such ilk. It was some time between 2016 and 2018. It was at the end of the year, I remember. A friend from Shanghai was visiting the Thai capital for the first time. And he wanted to acquaint himself with Patpong.

What struck me most is how similar it looks to the plethora of knock-offs you’d find in, say, Patpong

No more than ten minutes after we entered the street from the Silom Road side—with the four rows of vendors and a walkway between each of the two, forming narrow parallel passages—when someone, standing in front of a well-stacked store, pulled out a thick black sweatshirt and thrust it into my face. He said to me immediately, “cheap, special price”. It was definitely no less 32°C that night and I was sure I didn’t need what he was hawking. But what caught my eye was the text emblazoned across the chest of the garment: Burberry. It was three-dimensionally embroidered in different colours for each of the eight letters. It was a garment scarily garish, just as it clearly did not radiate authenticity from where it was peddled.

Gucci has, of course, always been a gaudy grabfest of the retro—patently so. Even their collabs with sports brands (including the use of fabrics and patterns) point to times past, not present, most definitely not the future. And a brash and garang expression of self-confidence by way of their five-letter, serif logotype, which, together with their kitschy camp, make up what the die-hards like to call Gucciness. The masthead-sized brand name on the chest is clearly for them. On me, it’d look like I am trying too hard. The question is, how would I feel about myself with that embroidered and appliquéd name on me? A fake from Patpong! This collab, interestingly, is touted with the Palace brand that comes before Gucci, which describes it as “a Gucci collection designed by Palace Skateboards”. And, that one-way partnership to Gucci means “something miraculous truly happens”. I wish it was something beautiful instead.

Gucci X Palace is available at Gucci Vault. Photo: Gucci