As the founder of the rider-run Palace Skateboards, Lev Tanju is responsible for London’s most prominent and buzzed about skate company. Although Tanju is quick to point out he never intended for Palace’s appeal to transcend the skating community, the young company has become one of the most exciting street culture brands in the United Kingdom.
Tanju is quick to point out that the brand’s clothing label exists only to support its skating activities, telling Style.com, "It helps us do what we want to do," he says. "At the heart of us, we are a skate brand. I probably spend more time doing skate graphics than anything else. We're not a skate company—we're a family, really. We're all brothers, pretty much.”
“I had a gap decade after college, just skating and doing fun shit. Then one day I decided that I was a bum and I had to do something. I started designing some board graphics for people I live with. Then half way through designing them I thought to myself that maybe I should just start a skate company. It’s called Palace because that’s the name given to the houses we live in as they have all generally been shitholes,” said Tanju.
Palace’s burgeoning international profile has been boosted by collaborations with Reebok, Adidas and Umbro. The brand’s first collaboration was with Reebok, and resulted in the Workout Low, an update version of a Reebok Classic design, adapted for skating by the addition of a vulcanised sole. “It made it more affordable and better to skateboard in. It wasn't a massive technical thing to do, so Reebok had no problem doing it.” The shoe was exclusively distributed by Supreme in the United States.
The brands Palace chose to collaborate with were not, unusually, selected for commercial reasons; it was Reebok and Umbro’s status in British sub-culture that swayed Tanju to collaborate with them. "I'd always ride American skateboards," Tanju told Style.com, "I thought, Why don't I like anything British? I'm really into English clothing and weird things that happen in England, like terrace football culture. I wanted to make stuff like that, that'd look English. We wanted to do football shirts with Umbro, and we wanted to work with Reebok—what I wore as a kid."
Tanju told Dazed Digital, “Generally I think it’s great when there’s interest from more of a mainstream audience in skateboarding. I’ve met some of the best people in my life through skateboarding and it’s really made me the person I am. If a few really awful Céline adverts or whatever get more people into something that’s productive and fun then fuck it: I’m not opposed to skateboards being in shoots like that. The problem with the Céline shots is just that there’s a really ugly skateboard in them, really badly placed.”
As for the future, Tanju maintains, “I just want to look after the team and always be about good street skateboarding and make nice stuff. Make things because we like them, not because we know they’ll sell.”