pUllING tHReADs, WiTH pAuL!

Our columnist explores the newfound relationship between fashion and Formula One.

Mercedes Benz x Virgil Abloh Collaboration 

Words by Paul McLauchlan

McLaren is less synonymous with luxury fashion than it is Formula One. That’s all about to change. The automaker is coming for streetwear with fashion partnerships. In collaboration with shoe label Athletic Propulsion Labs, the British motor racing team is set to release a limited edition line of trainers imbued with its signatures—carbon fibre plating and nitrogen-infused cushioning. With a host of luxury retailers set to stock the line, it begs the question: can car brands make it in fashion?

If the past few years indicate anything, the intersection of fashion and high-end carmakers is fast becoming a recurring theme as the likes of Porsche, Ferrari, and Mercedes bolster their fashion kudos with full-fledged collections and exclusive capsules. Porsche eschewed dealerships and car expositions with their partnership with speciality car dealer Arthur Kar, opting instead for Dover Street Market in Paris. The deconstructed car he designed, with its emerald green exterior, fitted with a TAG Heuer stopwatch, Bose speakers, and Ecco leather, was given the fashion stamp of approval with apparel that ranged from graphic t-shirts to vintage Formula One-inspired garments. That’s one way to merge the worlds of style and motorhead fantasy.

Porsche & Arthur Kar Collaboration

Porsche & Arthur Kar Collaboration

Elsewhere, covetable streetwear titans Palace and Aimé Leon Dore remodelled Mercedes-AMG and Porsche cars, respectively, with accompanying apparel, while Italian carmaker Ferrari reported revenues from licensed products like fashion and sponsorships for its racing team accounted for 11% of its €3.5 billion in annual sales. It follows partnerships between Fiat and Gucci, Mercedes Benz and Virgil Abloh, and Maserati and Ermenegildo Zegna.

In the same manner as luxury marques launching accessory, beauty, and fragrance lines, car manufacturers’ attempt at launching fashion is an opportunity to welcome a new customer––many of them young and perhaps not in lucrative tax brackets––with entry-level models.

Ferrari Spring 2022 Runway

"If THe pAST FEw yEARs INDicATE aNYTHiNg, tHE InTERsECTiON Of FAsHiON aND HigH-EnD cARmAKERs iS fAST BeCOmInG A ReCURRiNG THEme"

McLaren & Athletic Propulsion Labs Collaboration

Like McLaren, Ferrari’s fashion wing––which launched at its headquarters in Maranello, Italy, last summer––is designed with much more than the brand’s luxurious identity in mind. The slick silhouettes are imbued with a sense of the car’s physicality while fabrics like carbon fibre are woven into garments. From baseball caps to racing jackets, logo t-shirts, track pants, and more, the broad scope of the project welcomes new players to the table, chiefly those who cannot afford the £200,000 price tag of a car.

Rocco Iannone, the designer at Ferrari, told Vogue Runway that the mission is “to enlarge our fan base, including young generations and women especially—although women have always been part of our fan base but it has never been well told.”

With over 80% of the line described as unisex, the inclusion of women in the story is perhaps the most groundbreaking aspect of an automaker entering the fashion world. Often excluded in streetwear and carmaking conversations, the line will have the effect of translating superior Italian craftsmanship to a new set of individuals. 

Devised to attract young, female, and predominantly Chinese customers, Ferrari’s line, without garishly obvious references, produces in part a surprisingly subtle outcome. Without infantilising its reference point or its target audience, the carmaker-to-fashion pipeline could be a believable pathway in luxury fashion. 

"tHe sLiCK SILHoUETTeS aRE ImBuED wItH A SEnsE Of THe cAR’s pHySiCALItY wHiLE fABRicS LIkE cARBOn fIBRe ARE wOVeN InTo gARmEnTS"

Mercedes Benz x Virgil Abloh Collaboration 

Mercedes Benz x Virgil Abloh Collaboration 

Fiat x Gucci Collaboration

Devised to attract young, female, and predominantly Chinese customers, Ferrari’s line, without garishly obvious references, produces in part a surprisingly subtle outcome. Without infantilising its reference point or its target audience, the carmaker-to-fashion pipeline could be a believable pathway in luxury fashion

Similarly, Porsche is trying to achieve something akin to Ferrari with lean silhouettes and casual sportswear. With McLaren, streetwear enters the fold. Will hypebeasts turn to the motor world as they do their favourite skate brands? 

The most impressive proponents will be those who use storytelling to not only expand their universe, using different channels to communicate than those they’re traditionally valued for, but for taking the car world out of its masculine guise and into the gaze of sartorially-inclined women who are typically ignored in the conversation. 

Aesthetically, automotive giants and luxury fashion are a match made in heaven - especially if you consider the importance of womenswear in the market share. With each industry’s devotion to craft, and materiality, as well as proclaiming the highest level of skill and competency, it should come as no surprise if more and more car giants partake in the world of luxury fashion. However, whether they can compete with the likes of Gucci and Chanel––obvious competitors given their stature and the handsome financial backing––remains to be seen. With the finish line not yet in sight, the winners have yet to reveal themselves.

pAUl'S PIcKS Of ThE MoNtH

VERSACE

Jean Motor Logo Jacket

A striking take with car brand motifs, it doesn’t take owning a Chevy to step out in style

NODALETO

Bulla Babies Heels

They mightn’t be advised for behind the wheel, but Nodaleto’s heels are always a must-have

GEORGE KEBURIA

Pleated High Waisted Shorts

A star buy for the last of the summer road trips 

BEA BONGIASCA

Double B Vine Ring

 Precious without compromising fun 

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