Fashion designers have always been driven. But some have been revving their engines a bit more literally, of late. In one of his latest off-runway design adventures, Karl Lagerfeld is adding lightweight alloy rims and tinted windows (of course) to Volkswagens. His special VW “Style” packages are only available in Germany, but another fashionably pimped-out car is making its North American debut this fall. Frida Giannini has been giving the Fiat 500, a classic ’50s favourite, some retro-inspired upgrades— think green-and-red-striped seat belts and supple leather seats in the signature Guccissima print—for the special edition “Fiat 500 by Gucci.” No word yet on the North American price, but the list price for the Italian launch was 17,000 euros, all-inclusive—which sounds like a steal for designer wheels.
While Ralph Lauren may not be spending his days tricking out compact cars, he is certainly drawing inspiration from them: His proclaimed passion for metallic grey results in the colour’s frequent appearance on his gowns. If he ever needs a little design pick-me-up, Lauren just heads to his Long Island garage and his renowned collection of 64 classic sports cars—including a stunning black 1938 Bugatti 57 S(C) Atlantic Coupe, which is one of the most expensive cars in the world. If you happen to be in Paris before August 28, you can see 17 of Lauren’s wheels (Bugatti included) on exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs as part of The Art of the Automobile: Masterpieces of the Ralph Lauren Collection. The exhibit’s catalogue provides a little taste of Lauren’s auto obsession: “I look at a car and love its highly stylized air vents, a row of steel rivets, a hubcap or a gas cap, a perfectly crafted steering wheel, soft buttery-leather upholstery, a richly polished burl-wood dashboard or the beauty of a leather strap over the hood. I take those details and integrate them in everything I design, from a watch to a chair to a woman’s evening dress.”
But even today’s more obviously automotive-inspired attire, like driving loafers and jackets, are more about subtle style than practical need. You probably won’t be saving this season’s Marni motorcycle gloves for your next road trip, but this doesn’t mean that fall’s road-worthy designs are always subdued. Just check out Topshop Unique’s quirky headlight handbags and car-print shoes inspired by Cruella de Vil’s roadster. With Baz Luhrmann’s new film adaptation of The Great Gatsby in the works (pause for a moment and picture Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio as Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby sporting driving dusters, goggles and leather gauntlets while out for a spin in Gatsby’s famous yellow Rolls-Royce), it might be high time to hit the road in a dapper driving duster of our own—a Prada one, naturally.
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