Fashion and motorsport aren’t normally considered a match made in heaven, but if you think about it, there are many places where they overlap. Both have an unseemly obsession with leather. Bright colours offer a bold pop. There is an obsession with brands, and of course, you can never go without accessorizing.
Sporting brands like Nike, Adidas and Puma have dedicated in-house premium lines dedicated to motorsports, with the latter sponsoring all BMW races as well as equipping the Mercedes-AMG Petronas, Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull Racing teams. While these associations have proved to be effective for marketing as well as commercial sales, very little has impacted the fashion runway.
There have been fleeting moments of the two worlds colliding effectively, but it wasn’t until this past decade when designer brands like Hugo Boss and Hackett started to invest in F1 teams. It’s from this point onwards that we started to see car culture turn couture. If we were to pinpoint one moment in fashion history that truly turned the tide, it would have to be Marc Jacobs’ collection from 2014, which paid tribute to extreme sports. While aesthetically the references ranged from skateboarding to martial arts, the motorsports portion was really what resonated – with loud logos, dazzling fabrics and bold, bright colours.
From this show onwards, the motorsport looks starting popping up in other designer’s lines and was not just restricted to men’s fashion. From the Vetements 2015 show in Paris to the Moschino show in 2016, where the models came out in Moschino’s own bold F1 suits, these red, white and blue ensembles had replaced the sponsor’s logos with patches saying “Couture” and “TOY”. Of course, Moschino being the flashy brand it is had accessorized the suits with visor sunglasses and royal crowns.
In truth, these moments still felt like just the prelude, as the true marriage between the two worlds didn’t really get officiated until the Tommy Hilfiger 2018 collection. As the sponsor of the Mercedes F1 team, Hilfiger’s Milan show and its runway were literally turned into a racetrack, with pit stops serving as pop-up shops, creating a “fast retail” experience. What’s more, even the TommyXGigi capsule collaboration (with model Gigi Hadid) featured every look with the signature black-and-white check, a nod to the chequered flag.
Is the style evolving? What’s next for haute motorsports couture? Well, it’s hard to say. Designers seem determined to make car culture a consistent part of their collections. And why not, with the success that fashion houses have seen collaborating with street and sporting brands? With even Supreme selling helmets and racing gloves, it’s basically a done deal that these worlds are now officially intertwined. Riding in style, as fast as we like, has never been so fashionable.