In the 70’s, fashion designers and luxury brands were frequent collaborators with the finest car brands, with Oleg Cassini (Jackie O’s designer of choice), Cartier, Bill Blass, Givenchy, Pucci and Pierre Cardin all doing high-profile releases with brands like General Motors. In a trend that we’ve seen build momentum in the past few years, they are back at it with a vengeance.
Solid market research and a fresh set of creative eyes on a car design is a brilliant thing and I’d personally love to see more of it. At the moment, unless you’re in the Aston Martin price bracket and can totally customise your interiors, you’ve got a choice of your wheel covers, paint colour (typically in a very limited selection), a pet grille to keep Rufus safe in the back and possibly / sometimes a choice in trim colours.
Charcoal or Navy? Gee. That’s a hard one. I’m so bored I think my brain just stopped working.
In the last decade, Versace collaborated on a Lamborghini Murciélago, and Hermès worked with Bugatti on the special edition “Bugatti Veyron Fbg par Hermès.”
Then just last year, the Roberto Cavalli Mini Paceman had luxurious leather seats embellished with the Cavalli logo in gold on the headrests. Also last year saw Zac Posen and Nissan’s luxury Infiniti line, which boasted an ombré effect and a beautiful matte finish on the exterior, as well as a luxurious interior covered in velvet, shagreen, and leather. Oh, and let’s not forget the Gucci Fiat. Ermenegildo Zegna collaborated on a Maserati and put the Zegna elegant, luxurious stamp on everything including the car’s door panels, seats and roof lining.
So why is this happening? What is the value for car brands? Firstly, and most prosaically, car brands are looking at the bottom line and have recognised the power of the female dollar. They are also savvy enough to recognise the incredible success and brand loyalty that iconic fashion brands have garnered and want some of that brand fairy dust for themselves.
Ariane Reinhart, Bentley’s personnel director, told the Journal, “Only 12 percent of our customers are women, which isn’t good enough. We want to double this percentage within the next five years.”
Luxury brands gain market share in our emotional brain. It’s why people fly to Sydney just to visit the gorgeous Hermes shop for a single, iconic enamel bracelet. It’s why, as Maggie Alderson has described so gorgeously, so many French women see it as a rite of passage in their 20’s to save up for an Hermes Kelly bag, lovingly take care of it, and wear it with panache and confidence for their entire lives.
Luxury fashion brands hold the brand love and attraction that car brands can only dream of having. So when it comes to sprinkling a bit of that limited edition, luxe fairy dust onto a largely utilitarian item, these collaborations deliver a dash of extra prestige and romance. And it’s very attractive.
These collaborations are less about redesigning a car from scratch and more about unique interiors, fittings, wheels, colours and textures.
Indeed, when Victoria Beckham worked with Range Rover on the Limited Edition Evoque last year, her requests to make changes to the front and rear bumper designs were declined. But the utterly stunning result on the Evoque – sold only in China with an initial run of 200 cars at $120,000 a pop – shows just how big an impact can be made with paint, seats, interior colours, wheel rims, luggage and accents.
Taking a closer look at the Victoria Beckham’s Range Rover Evoque Special Edition
The Range Rover Evoque series launched in 2011 and it’s been a strong performer for Range Rover, with 70% of the buyers being new to the Range Rover brand and new to SUVs. Being a quintessential British Brand, Victoria Beckham seemed, on the surface, to be the perfect creative design director on the Special Edition. And she followed through. Despite not being able to change the structure or body of the car at all, the Evoque Special Edition is special indeed.
Firstly, the Evoque stands out with a combination of a hand-finished matt grey paint contrasted with glossy Santorini black trim on the roof, side sills, bonnet vents, wheel arches and forged 20-inch alloy wheels. This look was followed through with black being used for the Range Rover body lettering, fog lamps and exhaust surrounds. Darkened headlights and taillights contribute further to the sleek, standout look.
Rose gold accents (both inside and outside of the car) bring a sense of warmth and prestige and frankly I just love the look of rose gold on black and the Evoque Special Edition has it in spades. The dash is black in a range of textures and accented with dark machined aluminum. Sounding sexy yet?
Then I shall present to you the mohair floor mats, a microsuede headliner and an exclusive four-piece leather luggage set, which is lined in the same microsuede as the roof. Oh, and your car manual has a leather cover by Ms Beckham who has taken the time to autograph it for you. Going shopping yet? I am.
Oh, I was so distracted by the sexy black, matt grey & rose gold lusciousness of it all that I nearly forgot the seats – Vintage Tan leather sports seats with baseball style stitching – inspired by Mr Beckham’s sporting prestige are a question mark. I get it, I appreciate it, and I sure as pants would have preferred something else. But I get it. Many will love them (what do I know, anyhow?) and it does add a warm touch to a very masculine vehicle.
So there you have it. Car brands that do these collaborations would do well to remember why they’re doing it in the first place, and it’s not to have an excuse to put out a press release or pay lip service for the ultra powerful female car buying market. It’s to re-inspire an existing car with a fresh eye that hasn’t spent it’s entire design career hanging out with a bunch of engineers. It’s to improve car design standards. It’s to inject personality. It’s to allow car brands to be less safe in their design choices. It’s to provide that fresh layer of luxe brand fairy dust that transforms a car from a ‘must buy car’ thing to a ‘have to have car’ thing to lust and obsess over.
That is when car brands will have achieved the design holy grail. And not before.