The retail poetry of Palace’s Lev Tanju

Palace Product Descriptions: The Chosen Archive is among the most delightfully peculiar releases from a trend model in current reminiscence. A three way partnership between London skate model Palace Skateboards and artwork e book writer Phaidon, it delivers precisely what its title guarantees: greater than 300 pages of the miniature texts that accompanied gadgets on the market on Palace’s net store, all written over the previous decade-plus by co-founding artistic director Lev Tanju.

Whereas product copy is a basic a part of on-line retail, it’s sometimes seen solely when it has in some way gone flawed — a typo, a repeated descriptor, a very intellectualised flourish describing what’s, in the end, a reasonably fundamental jumper. So, what’s it about Palace’s copy that deserves a certain retrospective?

For one factor, Tanju’s descriptions are extremely irregular. They typically don’t have anything to do with the merchandise they’re hooked up to, written in enjambed bullet factors pinging from bawdy to erudite. His slangy all-caps type will be completely inscrutable to the uninitiated, but there’s a form of poetry to it. Here’s a consultant instance, describing a pair of socks:






Or this one, showing alongside a lime inexperienced T-shirt with reflective print and piping:

The e book organises 1000’s of those snippets into sections equivalent to “Faith”, “Etiquette”, “Romance”, “Meals & Drink”. Subjects of persistent curiosity for Tanju embrace male sample baldness, streaming tv, the consolation of his sofa, and the way exhausting it’s arising with new product descriptions. He’s a high-low gourmand as prone to advise on structuring an ideal McDonald’s takeaway order as he’s to stress a few hypothetical downturn in Palace gross sales forcing a right-sizing of his calamari finances.

Tanju hectors the reader warmly, like an older brother. The general impact is certainly one of tough conviviality, and if you actually need, say, a exact pocket rely on a pair of trousers, technical breakdowns of every piece are included on the positioning as effectively. A 2021 profile in GQ, probably the most substantial on the model thus far, devoted two paragraphs to the captions and their insouciant appeal.

Examples of captions written by Tanju, from ‘Palace Product Descriptions: The Chosen Archive’

Because the model grows, so does Tanju’s remit as lone copywriter. “Principally when Instagram was beginning as a platform, the merchandise would go up and I’d write some silly shit about them,” Tanju says in a telephone interview. “There have been just a few merchandise again then, like 5 or one thing, and it snowballed from there.”

When his caption for a hoodie includes him moaning about how rather more he has to jot down that night, it really works as a humorous reminder that copywriting is labour in a enterprise largely targeted on picture somewhat than textual content. “Palace is kind of a private model for me,” says Tanju. “A variety of it’s my life and my pals, so I like the way in which that the individual that’s working the corporate writing the descriptions brings you again to floor stage. I’ll take the piss out of our personal merchandise, which I believe is humorous, too.”

Tanju has been Palace’s copywriter for so long as they’ve had merchandise to hawk. The label was based in 2009 by Tanju and good friend Gareth Skewis, who had beforehand run trend and skate manufacturers and co-owned legendary London skate store Slam Metropolis Skates.

Lev Tanju photographed at home for the FT by Guy Bolongaro
Lev Tanju photographed for the FT by Man Bolongaro

“I used to be on profit, skateboarding at Southbank, and all my pals round me have been actually proficient skate boarders,” says Tanju. “I didn’t assume they have been getting an excellent deal from the manufacturers they have been driving for, they have been being taken without any consideration. I got here to Gareth, who handles the enterprise stuff, with a proposal and he helped get it off the bottom. I’m tremendous into garments, so it branched out fairly early on and needed to make high quality stuff.”

Past Palace’s ever-expanding vary of mainline merchandise — which started with skate decks and {hardware} and now runs the gamut from denim and Gore-Tex outerwear to button-down shirting and knits — Palace collaborates enthusiastically and infrequently, sketching out a life-style with its companions: Adidas, Stella Artois, French artist and designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Mercedes, Gucci, who search the cred that comes from working with a reliable skate model. Palace now has retailers in London, Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles, although Tanju’s texts are an online-only unique.

‘I’ll take the piss out of our personal merchandise, which I believe is humorous, too,’ says Tanju

The looseness of Tanju’s captions makes one marvel what different designers would possibly say in the event that they took the identical strategy to communication with their audiences. How rather more engaging would an statement from Miuccia Prada or Raf Simons make certainly one of their jackets, even when it was only a Tanju-style stray thought on restaurant etiquette? Or Rick Owens, who additionally writes indelibly in all-caps?

Purchasing on-line has grow to be brutally practical, spiritually deadening. The sameness of cell interfaces has flattened a variety of experiences into a mode of interplay that makes every thing really feel vaguely like procuring, whether or not one is swiping by means of black slingbacks on Ssense or potential companions on Hinge.

In the suitable atmosphere, although, procuring will be rewarding. Typically it’s instructional, with the potential to develop one’s tastes and understanding of craft, and generally it’s merely entertaining. Palace, by means of Tanju’s dashed-off micro-ramblings, is among the few ecommerce operations which have managed to create a persistently stunning expertise. That’s price celebrating in print.

Plus, amid the supply app orders, rest room jokes and episodes of Bake Off, Tanju often delivers one thing wryly helpful. Like this one, accompanying a varsity jacket out there for buy proper now on the Palace net store:

File that one underneath the “Etiquette” part of the following version.

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