Cars that were created by fashion designers are some of the most daring – yet under-the-radar – collaborations that exist in the industry today. Although they are decidedly few and far between in a contemporary context, there is still a storied and rich history of “designer cars” that fueled interest long before clothing entities began partnering to fan the flames of hype.
From haute couture houses to sportswear lines and utilitarian day trippers to wild concepts, these are 10 of the best examples of cars by fashion designers.
Lincoln Continental Mark V Givenchy
Lincoln’s 1979 luxury Givenchy package appeared inside of a car that closer resembled a small boat than an automobile given the taste and aesthetics of the late 1970s.
Coming in at 19-feet-long and 6.5-feet-wide, the two-door automobile weighed in at 4,787 pounds – about 1,500 pounds heavier than vehicles being produced during the new millennium.
Available in a range of colors, the car featured the Givenchy G logo on the hood, spare tire hump, and in the signature opera window.
The collaboration added $2,145 USD to the $13,000 USD base price of a Mark V and served as one of three other designer models that Lincoln would roll out from the likes of Bill Blass, Cartier and Emilio Pucci.
As Hemmings noted, “This would be the end of the line for the big Mark, the 1980 Mark VI was nearly 800 pounds lighter and the standard 402-cu.in. V-8 was replaced with the 302.”
Ford Thunderbird FILA Edition
Although the end of the 1970s marked the stoppage of many designer and automotive collaborations, Ford and Fila continued the trend with their take on the 1984-85 Thunderbird.
In an attempt to marry Fila’s relationship with tennis pro, Bjorn Borg, the duo presented the car under the tagline, “The road hast met its match” to solidify their desire to present an athletic and sporty car with 3.8 liter V6 engine.
Fila colors – in black, red or medium charcoal – appeared as small accents on the car’s white frame, while the interior featured a new digital instrument panel.
Those that purchased the Thunderbird also received a Fila sports bag with beach towel, sun visor, headband and wristbands.
MINI x Dsquared² Cooper S “Red Mudder”
Canadian fashion designers Dean and Dan Caten – collectively known as Dsquared² – designed a one-off Cooper S model to benefit AIDS research for Life Ball, Europe’s largest HIV/AIDS fundraiser, that had also seen such designers as Versace, Diesel, Kenneth Cole and Calvin Klein create their own interpretations of the MINI.
Custom retrofitted with front guard, rally headlamps, tinted side windows, raised chassis and spare tire on the tailgate, the brothers continued the adventurous theme on the inside with compass, floormats made of structured aluminium sheeting, and maple leaf on the leather head restraints.
“Our MINI ‘Red Mudder’ is 100 percent Dsquared²,” they remarked.
Cadillac Seville by Gucci
The Cadillac Seville by Gucci had the rare distinction of being one of the few collaborations where the final product was achieved by a third party. In this case, the Sevilles would leave GM’s factory fully equipped – but in stock form – and arrive at a Miami-based company, International Automotive Design Inc., who would then apply the luxury Gucci treatment that fell in line with the design sense of the company in the late 1970s.
Aldo Gucci said at the time, “The Gucci styling we have created for this car is designed to give a fortunate few owners a rare possession of distinction, beauty and ultimate luxury.”
Available in white, black or brown, the car came with a gold Gucci hood ornament, gold emblems on the wheels, front fenders and C-Pillar, and Gucci’s green and red stripes across the trunk lid. Inside, upscale Gucci materials appeared on headrests, armrests, headliner, and floor mats and a five-piece luggage set was stowed in the trunk.
The inaugural, 1978 edition cost $19,900 USD while the 1979 model retailed for $22,900 USD.
Lamborghini Murciélago LP 640 Versace
The Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 Roadster Versace Edition is one of rarest limited edition Lamborghinis ever produced – perhaps only outpaced by other automotive grails like the Centenario Roadster and Veneno Roadster.
Produced in support of the Paris Mondial de l’Automobile and to celebrate Fashion week in Milan, there are only two Lamborghini Murciélago LP 640 Versace editions – blue and white – and reportedly have a price tag of over $1 million USD each.
Powered by a 6.5-liter V12 that produces 640 hp at 6000 rpm, the notable Versace accents come on the interior courtesy of the Versace designers and the specialists for the ‘Ad Personam’ program at Lamborghini who married Nappa leather into the dashboard, doors, and headliner and seats with distinctive Versace Greek fret motif.
In a similar tradition as Gucci’s collaboration with Cadillac, Versace also presented a luggage collection with matte black calfskin adorned with the Greek fret motif as well as a pair of driving shoes in blue calfskin and leather driving gloves.
Described by the automakers as “an emblem for a state-of-mind,” the concept car between Citroën and Lacoste was first revealed at the 2010 Paris Motor Show.
“Positioned at the crossroads of the automotive world, where fashion and sport meet, it makes a number of references to all three sectors,” the official press release stated. “The technology on board also strikes a playful note, underlining the apparent paradox between design expertise and lightness of tone.”
Measuring at only 135.8 inches long – nearly three feet shorter than a Ford Fiesta – the collaboration was meant to dispel the notion that more was always better when it came to designing a car.
There is a notable absence of doors, instrument panel and roof – replaced instead by an inflatable canopy that could run from the rear of the car to the windshield header. Even the head lamps are discreet to the point of being invisible, concealed under the car’s dark blue bodywork until they’re switched on.
Bugatti Veyron Fbg par Hermès Edition
The name of this highly exclusive collaboration refers to the main Hermès store on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in the eighth Arrondissement of Paris and represents a perfect blend of the technical and aesthetic finesse of Émile Hermès and Ettore Bugatti.
Designer Gabriele Spezzini delivered a car for the 78th Geneva Motor Show that had a 16-cylinder “W” configuration engine which fed four turbochargers and featured 64 valves that were capable of generating 1001 horsepower at 6000 rpm and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in a mere 2.5 seconds – making it the fastest production car ever made.
From a luxury standpoint, the interior, dash, rear bulkhead, door handles, and seats were designed from scratch in the Hermès workshops in Paris and sheathed in bull calfskin. The vents on the edge of the rims were also designed in the signature style of Hermès seams.
As Car and Driver noted, “It is, as is everything associated with the Veyron, gorgeous, nearly incomprehensible to the average human. Existing words don’t do it justice.”
The special edition of the Veyron 16.4 was limited to four units and went on sale in 2008 for $2.4 million USD. A Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport was later produced in the same configuration.
A Bathing Ape x Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing
However, his most disruptive car was a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300S which was retrofitted with a modern 6.0-liter V8 under the hood and camouflage print that seemed particularly aeronautical in nature given the gullwing doors.
Although the reaction was decidedly mixed, there was no denying that NIGO’s creation was wholly unique and particularly apropos given BAPE Hong Kong 3 Year Anniversary Party in which it was debuted.
Thom Browne Infiniti Q50
In 2013, Infiniti teamed up with GILT to have designers Thom Browne and Zac Posen create bespoke versions of the brand’s Q50 sedans.
The Infiniti team gave them almost complete autonomy except for indicating that no rhinestones could be used on the dashboard and that they shouldn’t “go cutting the roof off,” according to Keith St. Clair, director of marketing for Infiniti USA.
Browne specifically opted for a mirror-like exterior that toed the line between ostentatious and upscale and was in stark contrast to Posen’s design which was constructed in light silver matte paint.
Inside, sterling silver finishes complimented the exterior motif and was finished off with his signature red, white, and blue stripes and a luggage collection in the trunk.
The Thom Browne Infiniti Q50 sedan was auctioned for for $75,000 USD with a portion of the sale proceeds benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
AMC Hornet Gucci Sportabout
The AMC Hornet was considered a rather mundane car during the start of the 1970s. However, that all changed when the hatchback was given a luxury upgrade in 1972 thanks to Gucci – resulting in a Sportabout model with distinct flare sloping hatch rather than a traditional tailgate.
Between 1972-1973 4,835 models were produced – including a one-off for Aldo Gucci himself. Although there was Gucci branding on the exterior, the interior of the car is where one could really appreciate one of the first examples of high-fashion aesthetics appearing inside a car. The result was signature red and green striping on special beige-colored upholstery fabrics and ivory headliner with Gucci’s trademark double-G pattern.
From a novelty perspective, there was also a writing desk with a lamp and sterling silver pen that folded out from the dash, as well as a compartment hidden in the back of the driver’s seat that opened to reveal a miniature liquor cabinet and removable box to play card games. All of this could be had at the time for an extra $141.80 USD.
AMC continued the designed trend for two more years – with the Cardin Javelin in 1973 and the Cassini Matador in 1974 – before retiring the upscale collaborations for good.
- Featured/Main Image: Hooniverse