The fusion of Belstaff X McLaren
BY SABINE FUSS & LARA VIRIOT
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 4 2018)
Design, innovation and groundbreaking technology. These terms are justified when thinking of the most recent collaboration between two British super brands. The joint project by the two top-performing brands is called Belstaff X McLaren, and with good reason, as we look forward to the latest masterpieces created through precision, engineering and authenticity. The collaboration not only incorporated McLaren’s motto “Everything for a Reason” by adapting the materials and design to the new 600LT, it also took many smaller details into consideration, leading to a unique collection through the added long-standing experience of Belstaff. Our editorial team was able to try out the new pieces during a test drive with the 600LT at the Hungaroring in Budapest.
The sun is shining, a few single clouds slowly drift by and a soft breeze is blowing. Perfect weather for a quick lap on Hungary’s most famous race track. The Hungaroring’s pit lane is practically empty, a few individual mechanics cross the track before beginning the final checks on the waiting vehicle. Then things get going, helmets on, climb in and, following a few final adjustments, we are good to go. A few quick laps around the track leave us thrilled, the 600LT leaves nothing to be desired. The latest member of the McLaren Sport Series is a striking successor when it comes to the ultimate driving experience.
The “newcomer” of McLaren’s renowned “Longtail” series is nothing short of remarkable. The immaculately built racing car is not only visually appealing. In addition to its typical butterfly doors, the vehicle also features a vertical exhaust which leaves an impression not only due to the flames it shoots out, but also the incredible sound it emits while doing so. The aggressive sport design of the powerhouse will set the heart of every car aficionado racing. The series’ latest “Longtail” sets new standards when it comes to revolutionised driving enjoyment. The racing car achieves an impressive 600HP due to its lightweight design, characterised by a carbon fibre body, the renowned lightweight braking system and the super-lightweight racing seats which are typical for McLaren.
A multitude of unmistakeable characteristics such as these were ultimately also taken into account during the collaboration with Belstaff. It is not just the 600LT which was created with an overall lighter yet aerodynamic design, but also the Belstaff x McLaren collaboration materials which borrow these lightweight features. Great emphasis was placed on the special functionality for the driver of this high-performance vehicle, which meant that driver-specific details were a must-have, including serial numbers which match that of the sports car. Further examples of “under the bonnet” functionalities are reflected by the concealed placket on certain pieces of the collection. The simplicity of the collection not only represents the timelessness of the fashion of Belstaff and McLaren, the subtle selection of colours also perfectly complements the new racing car, creating an excellent symbiosis of the two brands. The collaboration therefore sees two modern partners come together, both of whom are highly efficient in their area. Their joint project not only produced modern and aesthetically appealing pieces of clothing, but did so while combining them with a practical and functional element.
Due care was given to ensure that the performance never obscures style. This attention to detail allowed the creation of ten modern pieces of clothing which should meet the needs of any driver. We spoke with Helen Wright, CEO of Belstaff, Mike Flewitt, CEO of McLaren Automotive, as well as Rob Melville, Design Director for McLaren Automotive, about their close collaboration and the other distinctions of this unique collection.
How did the two brands decide on a cooperation?
Helen Wright: Belstaff’s partnership with McLaren has been highly rewarding. We are two modern, British brands who share an obsession with design, performance and innovation. Belstaff has been the outfitter to legends and adventurers since 1924, and this Belstaff X McLaren collection merges the best qualities of both brands. The partnership began about 18 months ago and so it has been a considered process. Our design teams merged philosophies, reviewing every detail of the collection, ensuring everything is there for a reason, ensuring quality and precision in design is thought about throughout.
To what extent is the philosophy of both brands reflected in the collection?
H.W.: McLaren has been pioneering the use of performance materials in motor racing for more than 50 years while, at Belstaff, we have been incorporating forward-thinking design into our clothes for close to a century. This alignment of philosophies underpins the creation of our collection; the result is something new and exciting – that we are both proud and excited to introduce to our customers.
Belstaff and McLaren are both very strong brands. What could you learn from each other?
H.W.: One of the most fulfilling aspects of our partnership was seeing our design teams working together, leaning our respective processes and widening our horizons. McLaren Automotive enabled us to have insight into new technologies and a different style of precision in the design process. The Belstaff design team brought their knowledge of performance fabrics, colour and functionality and led the way on manufacturing. We have also been able to ask McLaren customers what they required in clothing, which helped to define and refine the collection. We now preparing to launch the collaboration in key markets across the UK, US, Germany and Japan.
How can we imagine the cooperation between Belstaff and McLaren?
ROB MELVILLE: You should imagine something very timeless and sleek, a collection that reflects the spirit of both brands. We wanted to create something that was modern, relevant and different whilst still being beautiful.
For the project, you also exchanged a lot on a personal level. Why was that so important to you?
R.M.: We wanted the collaboration to be genuine. As designers, we are passionate about designing and are constantly being inspired; therefore we naturally share ideas, thoughts and creative processes. It was a real meeting of minds between our teams and all of us being personally involved was necessary for this project to be authentic.
What is so special about the collection?
R.M.: There is a clear narrative to the collection; each item brings elegant silhouettes and clean lines with beautiful technical details, which is what you might expect from both McLaren and Belstaff. Both brands are always trying to create the best. With this collection, you can see new cuts which allow an increased range of movement combined with new materials to deliver a capsule collection that is wearable both in and out of the office as well as always looking crisp even after a long day. The detailing is very important, everything is there for a reason so there is no excess; everything has justified its place on the garment. This is a true reflection of how we create our cars and I wanted this design thinking to be visible in this collection as well.
Which brand-specific characteristics were particularly important to both of you during the implementation?
R.M.: Both brands have a set of design pillars which naturally crossed over and complemented each other. Historically we have both been innovators in our respective fields; performance and a truth to materials was an area that we were both passionate about. We explored ways to create the ultimate driver’s jacket, we have called it the ‘Hero Driving Jacket’. Not only is this piece extremely lightweight (a crucial element of anything McLaren), but here you can see a very purposeful design. We have incorporated features like the pivot armhole for more movement, padded the area where the seatbelt sits for better comfort, reduced collar height for movement and better peripheral vision and mesh ventilation in certain areas so you can go from the car to the office still feeling fresh. Again, these details along with others have been at the heart of the collaboration. We have looked to Belstaff to guidance on fabrics, challenging the norm and working with different materials. They have looked to us for expertise on lightweight technology, engineering solutions and making functionality part of the design.
How were the strengths of Belstaff and McLaren respectively addressed? How do these flow into the individual parts?
R.M.: We are both well-respected British brands and it was important to both of us to stay true to ourselves. Neither of us wanted to create something we did not feel reflected who we are and what our customers have come to expect of us. There is timelessness to our products and we both wanted to bring that into the design. It was important for us to make something that will still look good in years to come. This influenced the colour palette, which we kept simple, and the tailoring, which is sleek and clean. By doing this the collection has a wide breadth of ability and is very versatile while still being stylish. It can complement trends rather than being a fashion statement, it can look sharp and presentable but also relaxed. Hopefully we’ve created something that can really add to people’s wardrobes and give them a real sense of great and purposeful design.
How would you describe the collection in three words?
MIKE FLEWITT: Authentic, stylish and versatile.
What impressed you most about the collaboration?
M.F.: What impressed me most was how the two design teams worked together. It showed real shared values in seeking great design. I have always known that we can create great cars, but seeing our principals being applied to another product and being applied beautifully and authentically is something I have found very satisfying.
Helen Wright was appointed CEO of Belstaff following a long career in luxury fashion brand management including senior roles at Anya Hindmarch, Karl Lagerfeld, LVMH/Fendi and Ralph Lauren.
Rob Melville joined McLaren Automotive in 2009 as Senior Designer, rising to Chief Designer in 2014. In his role as Design Director, Rob is responsible for developing the company’s design strategy, philosophy and principles while working with the engineering and manufacturing departments.
Mike Flewitt joined McLaren as Chief Operating Officer in June 2012 and became a Chief Executive Officer in July 2013. At the time of joining, the position was a new and strategic addition to the executive team and came as the company embarked on a new period of growth.
Picture credit © Belstaff