I have a Palace story. Anyone that knows me won’t be surprised. I have a lot of stories. Before working at Rouleur, I used to work in skateboarding. I’ve never had a real job.
I’d been on holiday, India I think, and when I got back into the office I had a meeting with the Marketing Manager about what I’d missed while I’d been working on my addiction to mango lassi.
A couple of our sponsored skateboarders had started a brand called, Palace. This must’ve been about 2009. I think I said something about it being fairly cool, but unlikely to go anywhere. But things with the brand progressed, then Rihanna wore a Palace t-shirt and the pictures went everywhere. Following that, a couple of my colleagues left for the ivory towers of Palace Skateboards and I realised I wasn’t the business visionary I thought I was.
Since then, Palace has become a huge apparel and skate brand; it’s had its logo on the Juventus kit as well as other collaborations with just about every fashion brand worth its weight in palatial gold. And now, for this year’s Giro d’Italia, its designs have wrapped the riders, head to toe (and bike), of EF Education First Pro Cycling.
The team is a band of misfits. EF Education First’s race schedule isn’t like any other World Tour teams and they have a group of riders with an outsider ethos. They’re fun and they’re incredibly relatable. Two adjectives not normally associated with professional sport.
It’s more than just racing, just as Palace is more than just skateboarding. I’ve never seen Rihanna do a kick flip in a B&Q carpark. It’s a lifestyle thing.
The team’s Rapha kit features cartoon ducks and the Palace pyramid motif. Rapha has ditched the script for this collab logo and gone for block lettering along side Palace. I’ve worked with Rapha over the years and can only imagine the fun they had with reconciling this in accordance with their brand guidelines.
Back in 2004, when Rapha was founded by Simon Mottram and Luke Scheybeler, the idea for the brand was to step away from garish cycling kit and produce something easily wearable. It seems that idea got benched for this partnership. It’s wearable, but not easily.
Palace didn’t stop at the Rapha kit, it gave the team’s POC eyewear and helmets a makeover - notably, its their Tempor TT lid. There’s probably some metaphor about turning an ugly duckling into a swan I could whack in here. The helmet may be really fast - some say the fastest time trial helmet on the market - but it has a way to go in the looks department. Or had. The cartoon duck makes it look even more comical. I think it’s better for it.
Then there are the new graphics on the team’s Cannondale bikes. Designed by Nick Larsen, the guy behind Fabric and Charge Bikes, the frames feature the Palace duck (again) as well as the team’s other sponsors logos which look like they’ve been plonked on in a similar way to how a skateboarder might slap stickers onto their board. Even the team cars have been reworked.
We look for characters in sport when here’s a whole team. They’re doing something different, and collaborating with Palace shows their sense of fun, as well as their PR savvy approach to servicing sponsors - outside of just winning bike races.
Did you know they did the team presentations for the Giro yesterday? You’re excused if you missed it. My timeline was ransacked.