How many times do you hear a NASCAR commentator commenting on the style of the drivers’ shoes or helmet? At first glance, it may seem like cars and fashion have little to do with each other. Although little attention is paid to the outfits of race car drivers, the truth is that the fashion and automobile industries are becoming more and more connected. On catwalks and in car showrooms, the intersection between the worlds of fashion and vehicles is becoming more and more evident.
A History of Intersection
Luxury fashion houses have a long history of custom-making interiors for luxury automobiles, helicopters, aircraft, and yachts. Collaborations between top clothing designers and car brands have also been a charity auction staple for a long time. Combining the design processes of creating cars and clothing has long been a tradition. Both place a large emphasis on design, style, and appearance. Modelling cars and modelling clothing, modelling them both together—cars and fashion have never been as separate as they may originally seem.
Who's Getting In On It?
Top automobile brands, and especially European auto brands, are getting in on this trend. Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Bugatti, Rolls-Royce, Smart, Lexus, BMW, and more. This trend is particularly popular with European auto brands. Famous fashion houses involved in this trend include Hermès, Puma, Betsey Johnson, Tommy Hilfiger, Courrèges, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and more. Car brands sponsor fashion weeks, collaborate with fashion houses, and more. This is not just a collaboration between a few brands or small designers; no, it is a worldwide, luxury phenomenon.
Why It Works
Cars and clothes have many things in common—for one, they’re both all about the design. The aesthetic. What you wear and what you drive can determine a person’s image; someone’s car and clothes are a very visual representation of who they are. People who care about looking the best care about their vehicle as well as their outfit.
Both expensive cars and expensive fashion have similar target markets, people with plenty of money and plenty of people to impress, who value a high-quality appearance. It naturally follows that cars and fashion would work well together.
Many big-name fashion houses have teamed up with different big-time car brands. For example, Mercedes-Benz is one such brand which has sponsored multiple fashion weeks around the world. Brands like Mini and Puma have joined forces on lines of shoes, clothing, and accessories. Louis Vuitton and BMW partnered in 2017 on a collection of suitcases and bags.
Collaborations also flow the opposite way, too, with fashion designers consulting on automobile designs for car companies. Designers have gone back and forth from working in fashion to working in car design. Due to the shared history and goals, the jump from one industry to the other is easier and more intuitive than you might have originally thought.
Fashion Show Themes
Many high-profile fashion shows have taken inspiration from cars. Shows are held in car museums, include sets focused around cars, serve as the location for automobile companies to debut new models, and more. Each industry often takes inspiration from the other.
Cadillac and Kia are two brands which have both debuted new cars at fashion shows. Balenciaga once designed an entire collection including couture inspired by car interiors, and Alexander Wang has also designed accessories inspired by automobiles. Ralph Lauren showed his Fall 2017 clothing inside of a luxury car garage. Evidently, cars are no stranger to scenes of fashion.
Crossing Industry Lines
Some car brands even attempt to enter the fashion world on their own without partnering with a fashion house—like Porsche, the first car company to create a collection for the autumn/winter 2013 New York Fashion Week. The opposite also sometimes occurs—for example, fashion house Courrèges has also created electric cars.
Porsche Design, launched by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche in 1972, is reinventing itself as a luxury fashion and accessories brand. Their collections include both menswear and womenswear, as well as shoes and accessories. The brand’s focus aligns with the Porsche mantra of “form follows function.” Their hope is to create fashion which follows the example of their cars—minimal design but maximum performance.
Magazines Attempting the Crossover
Fashion and automobile magazines, too, are attempting to take advantage of the similarities between fashion fanatics and auto enthusiasts. For example, British Intersection Magazine recently themed their cover “dress your car in couture.” By integrating fashion into their automobile content, magazines attempt to appeal to more than their typical audience. The magazine’s team hoped to combine machine, art, and design with fashion, architecture, music, and film in order to expand their reach and appeal. Focusing on fashion and integrating couture into their car content was a good way to try to bring together two very similar, overlapping groups of readers.
What the Future Holds
Based on the track record of cars and fashion appearing together on the world’s stage, the trend does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Time has shown that this cannot be just a passing fad. Museum exhibits, clothing lines, luggage collections, fashion shows, charity auctions, magazines, and the design studio all celebrate the wonderful relationship between hot couture and luxury cars. Who knows what will come next? What could the next collaboration hold? We can only wait with bated breath to see for ourselves.
Cars and fashion seem at first extremely different. Upon closer examination, however, the similarities rear their heads and areas of collaboration between the two industries have begun to pop up everywhere. Throughout the years, from decade to decade, automobiles and high fashion have experimented together with collaborations, shows, trips across industry lines, and expansions of their marketing to target both groups of enthusiasts. In Europe, North America, and everywhere in between, cars and fashion have overlapping characteristics which make it easy for each to appeal to consumers of both areas. After so much time, the fusion of cars and fashion cannot be just a fad—it seems to be here to stay.