Are cars the new fashion status symbol?


(ES)

A place at Central Saint Martins, followed by a place on the official London Fashion Week schedule and an Instagram photo of Kylie Jenner wearing your outfit – cha-ching! You’ve scored the next designer hat-trick. But for today’s talent, there’s a fast-accelerating fourth wing. Tip: comes with four-wheel drive.

Yes, a car collaboration has become a somewhat unlikely, but undoubtedly lucrative, arrangement for new design talent.

You seriously couldn’t miss it in the 50’s of W magazineth New York was abuzz in October when the likes of Chloë Sevigny, Michaela Coel, Karlie Kloss and Pharrell Williams all laid eyes on the new 2023 Lexus RX, inspired by the Wizard of Oz.

Harris Reed attends W Magazine's 50th Anniversary presented by Lexus (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for W Magazine)

Harris Reed attends W Magazine’s 50th Anniversary presented by Lexus (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for W Magazine)

The shiny red automobile was parked center stage at the wizard’s party, which was “presented” (read, paid for) by the Japanese automaker. The star of the show? It’s high camp, ruby ​​red Dorothy’s slipper-style glitter lips. They were designed by none other than London-based creative director Harris Reed.

“We were looking to connect with a specific subset of RX drivers,” says Lisa McQueen, Lexus media manager. “They are open-minded, diverse, creative, thoughtful and confident.” The gender fashion collaboration was “very successful in reaching and creating an emotional connection with our target audience,” she confirmed.

And Reed is far from the only fresh London face to land a cover and stylish car campaign. In November, Christopher Raeburn of eco-conscious East London label RÆBURN was brought in to boost the sustainability credentials of the all-electric CUPRA Born launch. “I think cross-industry cooperation always brings something unexpected; Of course, I learned a lot,” said the designer.

RÆBURN x CUPRA born (CUPRA)

RÆBURN x CUPRA born (CUPRA)

“The brief was to bring to life the credentials of CUPRA’s first fully electric car,” explains Andy McGregor, head of marketing at the company. She saw the recycled marine debris (SEAQUAL™) used for the car’s interior created into a catwalk-ready outfit and one of RÆBURN’s parachute prints splashed across the vehicle. “We hope this collaboration will reinforce how powerful, sustainable and stylish all-electric mobility can be – at CUPRA, we enjoy challenging the norms of the car industry,” he says.

It’s not that abnormal, though: fashion and fast cars have been bedfellows for longer than you might think. There have been famous partnerships – from the 1979 Gucci Cadillac to the 2016 Paul Smith Land Rover – and in 2021, Ferrari hosted its first fashion show in Milan. Importantly, however, the automotive giants have been the main sponsors of fashion weeks around the world (for the benefit of editors, who are driven around town in advertised cars).

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class convoy marks the start of London Fashion Week SS18 (Joe Maher / Getty Images)

The Mercedes-Benz G-Class convoy marks the start of London Fashion Week SS18 (Joe Maher / Getty Images)

Mercedes-Benz supported London Fashion Week for more than 16 seasons, first becoming title sponsor in 2010, but has since withdrawn its support. Last December, the German manufacturer also dropped its title sponsorship of Berlin Fashion Week after 15 years.

For Mercedes, direct collaborations with brands have taken center stage – so far including Balenciaga, Virgil Abloh and Proenza Schouler. And in keeping with fast and furious fashion, their latest November campaign saw young London designer Saul Nash and his ready-to-dance aesthetic tapped to create a collection of tracksuits emblazoned with the Benz E-sports logo. The result is visually electric, with a diverse cast of young dancers photographed spinning sleek cars.

Mercedes-Benz partners with Saul Nash & SK Gaming (Mercedes-Benz)

Mercedes-Benz partners with Saul Nash & SK Gaming (Mercedes-Benz)

Like other automotive spokespeople, Mercedes’ head of brand collaborations and brand entertainment Julia Hofmann talks about the “new impulses” offered by Nash. “Saul’s designs, and especially his passion for performance, fit seamlessly with Mercedes-Benz’s approach: reaching new audiences through its position at the crossroads of culture.”

For car brands, this is a great marketing technique to keep on top. For designers, it’s an irresistible business: designers are paid for collaborations, and although no one would reveal exact figures, we can assume a few figures. For reference, the Mercedes-Benz Group recorded a net profit of 11 billion euros in 2021.

Mercedes-Benz partners with Saul Nash & SK Gaming (Mercedes-Benz)

Mercedes-Benz partners with Saul Nash & SK Gaming (Mercedes-Benz)

The future of fashion cars looks bright. Nash only made the clothes this time, but does not rule out creating a custom model.

“If I were to design a car, it would be something I could fly in. A sleek and simple sports car that can change color to suit my mood,” he says. It’s the kind of larger-than-life idea manufacturing giants seem determined to push forward.



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