The authentic American Workwear brand… that’s from Sweden
In recent years, workwear has slightly strayed from its roots. And when we say strayed. We mean walked off the building site and into a cosy office job in the city with a house in the suburbs.
Brands like Carhartt, a brand that defined workwear, enjoy a somewhat schizophrenic place in the market on either side of the Atlantic (although this is changing). Back in the states Carhartt is still widely regarded as a brand for the building site. Over here in Europe, it is more likely to be seen adorning the street style Fucbois. Unsurprisingly the quality took a nosedive when seasonal collections became the norm and we saw a divide in the “Made in America” workwear and the fashion-orientated side of the brand.
For lovers of heritage, narrative and quality, this puts us in a quandary. There is a juxtaposition of association. On one hand, we love the look, the quality and the practicality. On the other hand, hanging on the peg next to that iconic brown chore coat is the same style and fit in a leopard print.
We walk away confused.
Anyway, why am I telling you all this? Because I want to introduce DePalma Workwear.
I came across them on this new fangled Instagram. Great images of great looking clothing on manly looking men with hammers and chainsaws and the like. Now, the problem with Instagram is that it down foster a degree of scepticism. With a good model agency, a stylist and a location scout… You can set any scene.
These images didn’t have that staged vibe, however. There was that undefinable authenticity where you could imagine that these guys really could weld I beam’s, chop down a tree or fix your motorcycle. So I started to do my homework.
When I went digging into DePalma, these garments were being sold in stores where actual labourers, craftsmen or mechanics buy their gear. And a lot of them seemed to be in Sweden. Curiosity. Piqued!
I reached out to the guys at DePalma to find out just what this brand is all about.
From the horse’s mouth
Rope Dye: Who are you and what do you do?
DePalma: My name is Jonas Skommevik, CEO, and Partner at DePalma Workwear
Rope Dye: Who started the whole thing off
DePalma: A bunch of people from different areas of expertise got together in 2015 and started talking…
Rope Dye: How did the brand get its name?
DePalma: The brand name has its roots in California, US. As a more straight up business and brand it came to life in 2001 when DePalma Clothing was born and was then run through the US, but always with ties to Sweden until 2013. 2015 we developed this even further and created DePalma Workwear.
Rope Dye: How did you get into the garment business?
DePalma: I personally grew up in the skateboard and snowboard community – and started working extra in retail at a young age (12). There my interest in the garment industry took off alongside the hardware side of that business. In my professional career, I have only worked within the garment industry.
Always starts with denim
Rope Dye: You clearly have a passion for well-crafted clothing, how did it all begin?
DePalma: My interest in denim has always been strong – so I would say that is where it began. At a part of my life, I worked in a denim chain – where the focus was then put even more into the actual product, from initially being more focused on aesthetics and brand. Still, to this day some of my favourite brands are classic denim brands. I simply enjoy well-crafted clothes because it is a perfect mix of sustainability yet staying current at all times. As the old saying goes “quality never goes out of style”….
For a new generation of craftsmen
Rope Dye: What is the concept of DePalma Workwear?
DePalma: We offer workwear for a new generation of craftsmen. We are a workwear brand that puts as much emphasis on brand, image, and design as we do on function. Thus, we offer functional clothing with high quality but maintain the brand and design aspect to what we do.
A Wider Focus
Rope Dye: What was your motivation to launch the brand?
DePalma: We strongly felt that the offer on the workwear market was way too limited and also mainly focused on the only function. We saw a completely new generation of craftsmen growing up, taking control and taking pride in what they do and thus also how they look. It is for these people we exist and creates what we do. We also felt that the classic workwear market defined the crafts way to narrow, too much focus on only hardcore industry – why our motto is simply that anyone working with their hands with great pride is a craftsman, regardless of which trade. Thus, craft for us can be everything from carpenters, plumbers, iron workers, mechanics to tattoo artists, bartenders, restaurant workers etc. Here we found the gap in the marketplace where we sit perfectly.
Rope Dye: What inspires you when crafting a garment?
DePalma: The pride that people take in performing their specific trade, whether that is building a house, brewing a beer or grilling a steak, is what inspires us. We want to give them products that reflect their own pride in their craft in the best possible way.
Do you remember your first piece of clothing that really made an impact?
Product wise I would have to say my first Levis 501s- I do not know why but they just felt ”spot on”. From a brand perspective, being a skateboarder, it was my first Droors sweater that I got when I was 10. That was a huge deal!
Rope Dye: Why do you think workwear has become so popular recently (over the past decade)?
DePalma: If I would guess I would say that it is a counter-reaction to that everything around us is so insanely digitalized and speedy. Not that that is a bad thing, but I just think that people then want to have a safe haven to go back to – and once again, what is more, direct than working with your hands. And to do that, you need to get into the right vibe in the right clothing. Also, the specialist in different trades are growing very rapidly, which I also think contributes to this fact. For anyone, whether a professional craftsman, a DIY person or just someone to aspires to this segment – I think the common denominator is that it is and feels “real”.
Rope Dye: What do you love the most about workwear?
DePalma: That it is or at least can be the perfect combination of sustainability and great design. And the fact that fantastic designs can be created by just mixing heritage materials with new technology in different ways, creating unique products both in terms of design but at the same time maintaining functional. Simply put, they serve a proper purpose AND look great.
Rope Dye: Do you collect anything?
DePalma: No, not anymore. I did collect vinyl records some time back – but have lost track of that a bit. I actually think that one of the reasons that I used to collect vinyl records was the same reason that I think that workwear has become so popular – it also feels very “real”. I need to get back to collecting again…
Rope Dye: Is there another brand that inspires you?
DePalma: Many different brands, all from very different segments. To name a few I would say Levis is still very much up there, as is Patagonia. Red Wing is another favourite. Other brands that inspire, especially on how they conduct their business is Palace Skateboards. There are of course many other brands that inspire for different reasons, but that is top of mind.
Rope Dye: Where will DePalma Workwear be five years from now?
DePalma: We will be a sizeable and prosperous business with international presence allowing ourselves to constantly create new, genuine and well-crafted products for our audience that we take full pride in! We will have taken a big part in building the workwear business as a whole bigger and widely appreciated – where design and brand are considered an equally integrated part of the product. We will also be in the forefront of workwear in regards on how you take a beautiful heritage references, and making them contemporary with all what that means – not only function wise but also concerning developing everything in a sustainable way and being a part of developing that much much further.