A new era of collaboration between fashion and car manufacturers

On Friday, Porsche threw an exclusive rooftop party in West Hollywood to celebrate the launch of not a new car, but a suitcase.

The €2,250 ($2,453) suitcase was designed in collaboration with German premium luggage brand Rimowa – featuring the company’s signature fluted aluminum design – to pay homage to the iconic Porsche 911 sports car, several of which swarmed the venue on Friday night filled and displayed the luggage in their suitcases. The launch attracted a young audience and also featured five spy thriller-style short films screened at the party, highlighting the joint efforts of the two brands.

The Porsche Rimowa suitcase joins a long list of recent streetwear-influenced collaborations between automakers and fashion labels, including a new Maybach car designed by the late Virgil Abloh that was unveiled last week, a Maserati clothing line that designed with Japanese designer Hiroshi Fujiwara, and a partnership between skateboard label Palace and Mercedes-AMG. The latter association includes a full apparel range and four special edition cars. An increasingly common fashion partner, Mercedes also partnered with streetwear labels Heron Preston and Off-White last year.

The entire motorsport industry is trying to align with fashion. The Formula 1 racing competition has used streetwear collaborations with brands like Bape to shake off the sport’s stuffy and elitist reputation and market itself to a young and fashion-conscious Gen Z audience.

By working together, fashion giants and automakers not only reach new, affluent consumers, but also introduce new product categories to their devoted fans. It’s not just about selling more cars or creating a new revenue stream. Fashion companies benefit from the merger of renowned automobile manufacturers. Much like skateboarding and hip-hop have influenced the menswear market, the culture surrounding high-performance cars is also creating emerging brands in fashion.

Companies like Maybach-owning Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar are striving for visibility among young, stylish consumers who may never buy a $200,000 vehicle but could one day buy a car-branded hoodie if the brand was successfully marketed as cool.

Similarly, the new Porsche-Rimowa suitcase will reach younger customers who may not own a Porsche, said Deniz Keskin, the company’s head of brand management and partnerships, “but it gives them a chance to step into the world of the brand.”

A refined approach

Connections between automakers and fashion brands are nothing new. British menswear label Hackett has worked with Aston Martin for almost 20 years. The relationship began when Aston Martin asked the brand to sponsor their Formula 1 drivers’ clothing, but has evolved into a more collaborative partnership in recent years. Today, the companies’ respective design teams work side by side on Hackett’s Aston Martin-branded polo shirts and down vests, according to Mark Blenkinsop, chief marketing officer of AWWG, Hackett’s parent company.

This increased collaboration points to a broader trend in which licensing deals and logo swapping aren’t enough to capture consumer interest – and wallets. Today, the working relationship between automotive companies and fashion brands is far more sophisticated, underscoring the alignment between their respective products and audiences. Rimowa and Porsche are deepening their shared status as premium German design brands, while Maserati’s 2020 collaboration with Zegna is rooted in their “shared passion for ‘Made in Italy,'” the brands said at the time.

Today, such collaborations reach more demanding consumers, according to Walter D’Aprile, founder of Nss Factory, a Milan-based creative agency. For example, Gucci’s collaboration with Fiat in 2011 simply featured its classic green and red stripes on a special-edition Fiat 500 — a connection that wouldn’t work today, D’Aprile said.

We only work together where there is a real story to tell or an experience that we can create that makes sense to us.

Collaboration these days requires creating a narrative that explains why it makes sense in the first place. The collaboration between Palace and Mercedes has been popular with consumers as the colourful, stylish workwear and matching unique art cars designed for the launch reflect Palace’s reputation for daring collaborations that push fashion into new areas of sport and lifestyle to lead.

“We oppose a lot of brand collaborations related to cars,” said Arthur Kar, owner of luxury car dealership L’Art De L’Automobile, which works at the growing intersection of fashion and high-end automobiles and has worked with companies like Porsche and Dover Street Market.

“It’s not because we don’t respect the brands that approach us,” Kar said. “But we only collaborate where there’s a real story to tell or an experience to create that makes sense to us .”

The fashion icons of Formula 1

Following in the footsteps of the NBA and Premier League, the Formula 1 racing competition is evolving into a fashion marketing arena in its own right as some of its athletes have become style icons, including Lewis Hamilton and Guanyu Zhou, the first Chinese driver to race in the competition.

Zhou is often pictured in full Prada gear ahead of the race and is an ambassador for luxury watchmaker Hublot, while Hamilton arrives in striking looks by Bottega Veneta, Jacquemus and Ahluwalia, sharing content with his 27.5 million Instagram followers. For brands, every race day creates valuable product placement opportunities. The sport’s rising popularity among young people in North America has led to partnerships such as the Tommy Hilfiger-Lewis Hamilton clothing line, which launched in 2018.

Ferrari, which runs its own Formula 1 team, debuted at Milan Fashion Week in February, showcasing its second ready-to-wear collection as part of its effort to build a full-fledged clothing line.

The pieces, including a $1,750 recycled nylon jacket in his trademark red and black and a $2,000 leather backpack, incorporate modified fabrics used in Ferrari cars and reference the Uniforms of racers and crew members. However, they are not expected to be a significant revenue driver for the company. Instead, the clothing line will help upgrade Ferrari’s other licensed products, such as wallets and gloves.

“Fashion is a great way to reach a larger audience and make the brand relevant to people’s lifestyles,” Ferrari’s chief brand diversification officer told BoF in June.


Leave a Comment