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Brief Published: 28 Oct 2020

Car Brands Tap Next-Gen Luxe with Streetwear Collabs

Kith x BMW

Tapping into the confluence of streetwear and luxury (as evidenced by hugely influential traditional fashion houses Dior, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton hiring streetwear heavyweights as creative directors), automotive brands including BMW and Porsche are leaning on the semiotics of streetwear to capture the imaginations and wallets of a new generation of luxury spenders.

The move illustrates the needs to combat shifting aspirations in potential car buyers: car ownership is declining among both millennials and Gen Z, with 56% of the latter saying that a car represents no more than a means of transportation (MediaPost, 2019).

BMW Trades on Kith Figurehead

In October, BMW shipped the BMW of Ronnie Fieg (founder of US multibrand streetwear retailer Kith) to Germany, where it was rebuilt using original parts from the manufacturer’s archive and custom Kith x BMW emblems. A 1:18 scale replica was released at Kith’s Tokyo store, in concessions in NY department store Hirshleifers and UK department store Selfridges and on kith.com, where it sold out on the same day.

Custom Cars & Art Associations Add Kudos

In February, BMW also partnered with American graffiti artist Futura, known as the godfather of street art and a regular collaborator with streetwear brands since the 1990s. Futura, who was also commissioned to paint the set of Louis Vuitton’s menswear A/W 2019 catwalk by creative director Virgil Abloh (himself the founder of Italian streetwear brand Off-White), hand-painted BMW’s M2 Competition Coupe that was displayed at the Frieze Los Angeles art fair.

Also in February, NY brand Aimé Leon Dore unveiled a custom-restored Porsche Carrera 911 alongside its 90s-inspired A/W 2020 collection, with seats lined with Loro Piana houndstooth wool and a Schott leather-lined trunk. The car debuted at the fashion brand’s NYFW show, subsequently displayed at the Jeffrey Deitch gallery, NYC.

Harnessing the Power of Hard Luxe

In October, Mercedes-Benz’s chief design officer Gorden Wagener collaborated with Abloh to produce a white, hand-sanded, race-ready concept version of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. A 1:3 scale model sold for $201,600 as part of auction house Sotheby’s ‘Contemporary Curated’ collection. For more on the shift towards ‘hard luxe’ (investment products that won’t depreciate in value), see Recalibrating Jewellery Retail.

See also Streetwear Buzz: LA Retail Update and, for a deeper dive into the best current and future strategies in auto retail, look out for Upgrading Automotive Commerce, publishing November 12.