During Berlin Fashion Week, the Stiftung Oper is hosting an exhibition that celebrates the aesthetics of mechanics and the history of classic cars. Mercedes-Benz, which sponsors its home country’s Fashion Week, has collaborated with Antwerp’s Fashion Museum to translate the automobile giant’s heritage into a contemporary setting.
Cars and fashion have had a long history. Coco Chanel's 1926 iconic Little Black Dress was inspired by Henry Ford's Model T; on closer inspection, there's a 'T' shape at the top of the dress and, like the car, it came only in black. In 1972, Hornet was one of the first American cars to offer a social luxury trim package created by a fashion designer. Named for Italian fashion designer Dr. Aldo Gucci, the Gucci package was offered only on the Sportabout, the four-door wagon with a single sloping hatch. The option included special beige-coloured upholstery fabrics on thickly padded seats and inside door panels (with red and green striping) along with Gucci logo emblems and a choice of four exterior colours. American Motors followed this designer influence in successive years with the Cardin Javelin in 1973 and the Cassini Matador in 1974. This trim package concept inspired other automakers — including Ford's luxury brand, Lincoln in 1976 — to offer packages styled by design houses Pucci, Bill Blass, Givenchy and Cartier. More recently, Mercedes Benz enlisted the talents of Nick Knight, Gareth Pugh, Craig McDean and David James for their campaigns. And, over the past few weeks, there has been an influx of car choices on AnOther's Loves including a 1961 Cadillac 'Jacqueline' Coupé and Silver-blue 6-cyclinder Jaguar.
For the current Recollection Quartett, Belgian art director Frederik Heyman and four fashion designers — who have all passed through Antwerp’s Fashion Academy’s doors — were invited to revisit four Mercedez-Benz Young Classic car models. Bernhard Willhelm, Peter Pilotto, Hendrik Vibskov and Mikio Sakabe have each placed the cars in a bespoke setting tailored to their signature style, whilst reflecting the specific connotations the respective models are associated with. German-born Wilhelm revisits the sporty SL-Class Roadster R-107 model using his trademark humorous aesthetic, while Peter Pilotto’s sophisticated yet graphic take on fashion is a perfect fit for the luxurious power-horse S-Class Coupé. Hendrik Vibskov surrounds the family T-model car with a colourful set of grotesque figures, playing around with the touring and transport model’s spaciousness. The Stroke 8 Salloon, W 115 model reinterpreted by Mikio Sakabe reflects the functional reputation of the model regularly used as a taxi because of its reliable mileage track record. All framed by Heymans’ all-encompassing eye, the installations prove how these classic cars can still inspire us today, decades later, in an artfully playful context.
Recollection Quartett exhibits at Bühnenservice - Stiftung Oper in Berlin until 23 January 2011.
Text by Siska Lyssens
Siska Lyssens is a London-based fashion writer. She contributes to the Flanders Fashion Institute blog and writes for AnOther and Dazed Digital.