Why auto-mobile manufacturers turn to collaborations with fashion brands

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George Kuruvilla

Published: Thu 16 Sep 2021, 7:57 PM

Last updated: Tue 21 Sep 2021, 9:57 AM

Shakespeare’s Hamlet reads, “For the apparel oft proclaims the man”. This is true not just for the attire we adorn but for the vehicles we own as well. Both are assumed to be extensions of our personalities, whether we like it or not.

And every now and then, we see these genres overlap. Automakers inject fashion brand-inspired styling into their vehicles and accessories, sometimes creating limited edition varieties. And fashion houses use the automaker emblems and heritage to create a single piece or a range of outfits and accessories to cater to a specific customer or a certain demographic. Let’s take a dive into this intersecting world, where car and fashion come together. Check out some of the notable examples.

From the fashion capital Italy

Not many years ago, we got our firsthand taste of this kind of partnership when we test drove a range of vehicles by Maserati. “What was the distinction?”, I hear you ask! The luxury fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna, which is especially known for men’s blazers and suits — also an Italian brand with a 100-year-old legacy — added lavish embroidered Mulberry silk trims to the seats of these vehicles, making them all the cosier while adding an extra dimension of opulence. Apparently, it takes these craftsmen some 300km of silk thread to complete one vehicle and the silk itself has been developed to have the same durability as leather. Most impressive! The latest iterations of these Zegna editions have unique woven Pelletessuta leather and as expected, is only reserved for just a few units of Quattroporte S Q4 GranLusso sedans and Levante S GranSport SUVs.

Moving on, some of you may remember the Lamborghini Murciélago LP 640 Roadster Versace. As if a wedge-shaped rocket ship of a vehicle with 600-plus horses under the hood wasn’t appealing enough, Versace stamped its style on just 20 of these units, with their recognisable Greek fret motif on the scissor doors and nappa leather upholstery. It also came with high-gloss ‘Hermera’ black-finished wheels, a carbon-fibre interior trim and glass engine cover.

And don’t think that the cheaper, more affordable car brands don’t get in on the action. Fiat offered Gucci versions of both the hardtop 500 and cloth-top 500C for a modest bump in price over the regular units. And the popularity of these partnerships meant that they had no trouble moving stock. The cabin of these vehicles came in all black, or a black/white contrast treatment to match the exterior paint schemes i.e. black or white, with the signature Gucci red and green stripe running along the beltline on hardtop models, and along the cloth top on the 500C. Satin chrome accents on the inside, Gucci badging on the door frames, accented with chrome mirrors and door handles, and unique 15-inch aluminum wheels with the interlocking “GG” design at the centre caps are some of the traits that keep this sheepish 500 separate from the herd. Fiat also did a one-off, called the B.500 “MAI TROPPO” with the expertise of Bvlgari. This convertible came sporting a metallic paint in imperial saffron — a shade iconic to Bvlgari. It is a colour achieved through the integration of a special gold dust, the highly precious scraps of the jewels’ manufacturing process coming from Bvlgari’s production site in Valenza. Equally interesting is the dashboard fascia that is made with heritage Bvlgari silk scarves from the collections of the past.

The French connection

These alliances are not limited to 4-wheeled vehicles by any means. One such example is the Vespa-Dior collaboration. The famed Italian scooter manufacturer and world-renowned French fashion house Dior came together to do a variety of the Vespa 946 with the aid of Maria Grazia Chiuri, the creative director of Dior. The intention was to “celebrate women’s freedom of movement and expression”. Some of the distinctions include a saddle covered with the recognisable Dior Oblique pattern that complement the scooter’s exclusive beige finish, retro bronze-gold inlays and a line of accessories, including a Dior-patterned helmet, luggage and a luggage rack at the rear to match the scooter.

The English patent

One of my personal favourites was the lovechild of legendary SUV manufacturer Land Rover — now owned by India’s TATA motors — and designer Paul Smith. The colour block strategy along with the tone of colours and fluorescent yellow highlights is seemingly a childish-albeit-fresh take on design that is free from corporate restraints and muted creativity. The vehicle features 27 different colours on the exterior panels, taking inspiration from the British countryside and those Defenders used by the Armed Forces, from back in time. The insides have been prepped with black leather contrasts against blue stitching. And there are lots of little hidden details, including the image of keys inside the glove compartment and hand-painted bee on the roof, that are positively peculiar.

European styling, American flair

More recently, American designer brand Kith and BMW put together a unique BMW M4 Competition, which was limited to 150 units. It got Kith badges slapped on several surfaces inside-out, but the highlight has to be the large font Kith branding on the carbon-fibre roof. The M Carbon bucket seats upholstered with black Marino leather was redesigned in a tricolour makeup inspired by the M color palette. Lucky buyers got to choose between Frozen Black, Frozen Dark Silver and Frozen Brilliant White paint schemes for the exteriors.

The Athleisure angle

Again, this marketing move isn’t just reserved for the haute couture brands, you also have athletic firms replicating this strategy. Volkswagen got Adidas involved in the making of this special edition Golf GTI hot hatch. It was available as either a 3-door or a 5-door version. The GTI, which is usually accompanied by the famed tartan fabric, was replaced with leather upholstery with the classic triple stripe of Adidas in this case. The car rode on 18- inch Serron alloy wheels and has Adidas-badged B-pillars, as well as tinted taillight surrounds.


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