It’s no secret that Arthur Kar loves Porsches. If you hadn’t figured that out already based on the L’Art de L’Automobile founder’s collection, then the fact that he’s been teasing a collab with the German automaker for the past two years might have given it away. Then finally, earlier this month at the IAA Mobility show in Germany, Kar and his partner Adrien Leborgne took the stage with Porsche to reveal that this partnership wasn’t just a T-shirt and sticker pack, but a complete working concept design based on the 968 that was finally revealed this past weekend, and which will be on display during Paris fashion week beginning the 30th of September.
I first met Arthur about a year ago at an event for Formula 1. I was wearing a L’Art hat, visible from the open top of the 720S Spider I was parked in, when he walked by and said “nice hat.” I replied “nice brand.” Coincidentally, a mutual friend introduced us later that day in Los Angeles. I’ve gotten to know Kar pretty well since then. He is someone who carries himself with a particular brand of confidence that I am not sure I have witnessed in any person before. But do not confuse this with arrogance, because he is also one of the nicest, most authentic people you will meet in the automotive world.
The marriage between L’Art and Porsche was always a matter of when, not if. Because despite Arthur literally growing up in garages in Beirut and Paris, surrounded by almost every car known to man, the protagonist in his personal relationship with cars has always been a Porsche: whether it was a red 964 911 Carrera on television, or Michael Jordan’s 993 911 Turbo S. The latter Kar explains, is why his own GT2 RS is red.
The day following the IAA talk, Arthur invited me on a ride in that same GT2 RS, which he brought to Munich from Paris. With Baby Keem blasting through the speakers, we went on a drive through the Bavarian Alps. As we hit 270 KM/H on the Autobahn, we took the rest of the ride to discuss the L’Art de L’Automobile x Porsche project in detail.
How did your personal relationship with Porsche start?
I remember one day I was at my house, watching a TV show. My dad was working as a mechanic for a garage and he was driving a lot of Ferraris for his boss. In Lebanon my dad had an okay situation, in France we were just poor. No complaints, but poor. My dad is a very good mechanic, so his boss had Ferraris, and his customers too, so they would come just to my dad to fix those cars. But my dad didn’t have Porsches. So I grew up between these American cars my dad was fixing and these Italian cars. And I saw a red Porsche on a TV show and I was like: “That red Porsche looks great!”
Do you remember what kind of Porsche was on the TV?
The red Porsche that I saw on the TV show was a 964. I will remember for life. A regular Carrera. But then later on I was a huge fan of Michael Jordan. Huge fan. I was looking at the magazines of the NBA games, and in one of the magazines I saw Jordan with his red 993, which is now on Netflix, but it was already in the magazines. It’s the reason why my GT2 is red. My love for red Porsches was from that feeling I had when I was younger.
You see it as a kid and it connects you to your childhood.
Exactly. So when I started to work for the brand and put myself in the situation as a mechanic and see the quality of how you can fix a 993, a 964, 996 —I went to my dad and I said “Everything you did ‘til now is shit,” I said “Porsche is the best.” Everything is like a good combination of Legos. If you don’t put it the right way, it doesn’t work. And they made these cars in such a good way, which is how I learned how good the brand is. And then I saw the type of customers who actually take care of their own self and their cars, and I was like, “The Porsche customers are very sophisticated.” It’s a style of people, you know? It wasn’t only rich people, because Porsche is not a brand for rich people. It looks like this, but it's not. It’s a brand for people who are very passionate about this brand. You can find whatever prices from the aftermarket to the new market, and then you can drive a Porsche.
If you go to a Porsche meet, you can see someone with a 986 Boxster next to a 918 Spyder and they talk and they know the connection and there’s no superiority.
If a Porsche crosses by us right now, and I am in a GT2 RS and if they’re in a Boxster, I am going to say ‘Hi’ to them. We are all the same.
What was your first Porsche?
I started with a 996 Turbo. I didn’t start low. I’m the type of guy I’d rather not have than have the wrong thing.
Go big or go home.
Did you buy it new?
No. I was selling cars back then, and I put money to the side from all the commissions. So I had a 996 Turbo, and I enjoyed it very much. And then that was the start. But of course when I had the 996 Turbo, I didn’t want to own a 996 Turbo, I wanted to own a Carrera GT. One of the best feelings I’ve had in my life was when I sold my first Carrera GT.
Who did you sell it to?
Someone who became a very close friend. He bought the car through me over the phone. He had never met me. I was in New York with some friends doing things, it was 7 O’Clock in the morning, jetlagged. And he called me. He was in Paris and he said, “So the Carrera GT is still available?” I said “Yes.” And he said “Let’s go, I’ll buy it.” So I was like “But you’ve never seen the car… you’ve never met me.” He said “I don’t need to meet you. I know the way you sound, I can trust you.” And the guy didn’t get it wrong, because, ‘til today I’ve never robbed anybody in my career. I do this from passion.
What have you learned about your own brand from your experiences working with Porsche?
So my goal, after all these things, was I wanted to stop selling cars and create a brand that is actually related to my experience and my life. And that’s why four and a half years ago we did the L’Art de L’Automobile brand. That was my main goal since forever, because I spent so much time between creativity, fashion, art and basketball. The streets where I grew up in my neighborhood, the people I looked up to were bad people who were driving crazy fast BMW M3s and all this stuff. So I was like, “I don’t want to be that guy, but I know there is a good side of all this.” And I want to be the good side of all this.
It’s like a rap video clip when you see the rapper driving with this beautiful shorty in a nice car. They’re doing it to show the right side of the music, the right side of who they are, you know? All these video clips: Prince, rap, these people who were showing this side of the automobile in the videos that I was watching all day on MTV Base back then, or BET, I was like “I want to be THAT side of the car. This is me!” This is R&B. That’s why in the video we’re doing for my Porsche collaboration there’s an R&B song I did with my friend, Daniel Caesar. And the reason why I decided to do it with him, is because first, he’s a good singer, but it’s also because of my relationship with the cars. I had first kisses in cars, you know? In Porsches, actually.
I’m sure every time you get rid of a Porsche, it’s so emotional because it’s a particular car that’s a part of your history.
You know so many Porsches I sold when I was doing car deals all day...I was like “I wish that car was mine.” A lot of people want to buy my GT2 RS, but I won’t sell this car, I’ll keep it. Or my Yellowbird, I don’t want to sell that car. I’ll keep it.
For me, L’Art is the only brand that feels like the same relationship I had with skate brands as a kid, but for my adult hobby — which is cars. It’s that same emotional connection. But you’re obviously very interested in fashion and have a ton of friends in the fashion industry. Is that just naturally from being in Paris, and the places you’re going and people you’re seeing, or is it the intersection of the car stuff too? Like I saw Virgil posted about the yellow Porsche he’s driving.
He’s driving a yellow 964 Turbo 3.6. It's the bad boy Turbo. He bought that for himself. He bought it literally because he sees how I move in my yellow Porsche. As much as Virgil inspires me in life, I inspire him with my automobile world and the way I drive with my Jordans on my feet. I met these people because I was already spending my time in fashion, learning, spending time there to see what I like, what I don’t like, how I feel. I was giving my knowledge to a lot of fashion brands, and then I met Virgil and his team, and I became his friend, but I never worked with him. I just showed them my side of the automobile world and some of them really loved it.
This is what I am doing with my collaboration with Porsche… to make a car with designs and shapes which push the boundaries. To show that it’s possible, you know? Porsche let me express myself on this, because they trusted me. They’re like “Okay, this guy knows what he’s doing. He has an eye. He has a taste. He has knowledge. We trust his vision.” So I put my vision on it.
We cross a sign into the derestricted portion of the Autobahn outside Munich. Now we can do whatever we want, so let’s try to go 300.. Go, go, go, go, fuck. Ahh! He braked. That was 270.
So your whole world of car inspiration is going to exist in this one car?
No, because if it was the world of car inspiration in one product I would do 700 cars. But I was really pushing the technology, the shapes, the design and everything at the same time. I hired a car designer and I said to him, “Just for you to know, you’re not going to design this car, because I don’t know how to use the computer tool. You’re going to do what I am asking you with your fingers, to have the car designed the way I want, and you’re not going to tell me if the car is beautiful or ugly. You’re just going to do it and when we’re done, we will talk about it.” So we did three cars, and we worked every day from 5 PM to Midnight. We did three cars and I showed Porsche the first one, which is not the final one. It was the first concept, the beginning of what it is today. And they said “Oh my god, let’s go.” So I was like: “Okay guys, now you trust me more, I’m going to show you in a few weeks what we’re going to actually do.” Then that car became the car you’re going to see now. So when we finished the car, I really still can’t believe I did this. We did a Tag Heuer watch just for the car, which is inside the car. I designed the speaker with my team just for the car. We have Bose who helped us to put the speakers in, so the car has a Bose sound system. The leather in the car is made special for the car too, with ECCO Leather. I can’t wait for the kids to see it. The main point of this interview is to say: “Even if you didn’t go to design school, even if you didn’t go to any school, and you have a vision and you’re very, very, very, very strong about it, you can do your thing your own way without anybody telling you “no.” If you just do it the most real way possible, it will come out great, no matter what. It will come out great for you first and that’s what matters.