- MINI Strip by Paul Smith
- Mini 40th Anniversary by Paul Smith
- Land Rover Defender by Paul Smith
- Smart ForTwo by Jeremy Scott
- Fiat 500 by Gucci
- Renault Clio by Moschino
- MINI Paceman Cavalli
- Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 Roadster by Versace
Car companies rarely shy away from a collaboration if they think there are extra sales to be gained or positive headlines to be generated. And among the most interesting partnerships are those with fashion designers or brands who are keen to put their own unique stamp on a model. This has led to an array of startling creations over the years, some, admittedly, more successful than others. Here we take a look at the special editions and one-offs intended to appeal to style-conscious petrolheads that were crafted with the input of the world’s leading fashion designers.
MINI Strip by Paul Smith
The latest foray into the automotive world by a leading car designer is one of the more interesting of recent times, as it has more than just looking good as its motivation. The MINI Strip, designed by Paul Smith, is a one-off with a clear focus on sustainability. And as the name indicates, this means stripping the car of anything that is considered unnecessary. That has delivered a minimalist look, with a thin coating of transparent paint to protect against corrosion used instead of coloured paint. Inside, the rather spartan theme continues, with all unnecessary trim removed, no screens and only a few switches. A mount for a phone is prioritised – the rationale being that a phone can perform many functions which would otherwise be carried out by the car. Some trademark Paul Smith bright colours add visual flair, but as an exercise in showing that less really can equate to more, the MINI Strip works extremely well.
Mini 40th Anniversary by Paul Smith
Of course, Smith has previous with Mini. To celebrate the original car’s 40th anniversary, he was tasked with designing a special one-off version and he certainly produced something memorable, as you can see. It featured a total of 24 different colours and 86 of Smith’s signature stripes, plus a vibrant lime green boot, and he was rightly proud of his work, stating: “The Mini was always a very cool car right from the beginning and what’s amazing is that it has continued to be a very cool car.” This one-off was a big hit, and a range of Paul Smith editions soon followed, but sadly these were only available in single colours – blue in the UK, plus white and black in Japan.
Land Rover Defender by Paul Smith
The acclaimed designer clearly has divided allegiances when it comes to working with car manufacturers. As well as his tie-ups with Mini, in 2016 he also collaborated with Land Rover on a unique version of the Defender as the iconic 4×4 approached the end of production. Smith provided Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations team with a set of 27 Pantone references which were then mixed to create the colours used for the car. And in true Paul Smith style, the result was smart and classy, rather than the gaudy mess such an array of different hues could have created. As far as fashion-led cars go, this was a winner – a triumphant partnership of British legends.
Smart ForTwo by Jeremy Scott
This one, on the other hand, is more of an acquired taste. In 2013, US designer Scott, who has created outfits for the likes of Lady Gaga, Madonna and Rihanna, was given the opportunity to fashion a special edition of the Smart ForTwo based on the brand’s ‘electric drive’ model. His unique interpretation saw translucent carbon fibre wings added to the back to form the rear lights and brake lights. As he explained, “For me, wings mean freedom, a sense of weightlessness. Because of this, I definitely wanted to have them for the Smart electric drive in order to convey the way it frees the environment of noxious emissions and symbolises the new lightness of mobility.” Which is all well and good, but the protruding wings add something of a cartoon element to the car – and also, we'd imagine, prove an irritation when parking.
Fiat 500 by Gucci
If there is one car that lends itself to a partnership with a fashion brand, it’s the reborn 500, which has spawned a bewildering range of special editions since its return in 2007. And to be fair, its collaboration with high-end Italian fashion brand Gucci was reasonably well executed, with Fiat reining in the temptation to produce anything too tacky by sticking to two simple colours – Gucci White or Gucci Black – adorned with the brand’s signature red and green stripes. As you might imagine, though, Fiat’s desire to market the car to “fashionista customers who want to distinguish themselves” meant it commanded a hefty price premium.
Renault Clio by Moschino
The French supermini has a long-established reputation as the best-selling foreign car in Italy, but in 2018 buyers there were given the option of adding a dash of finesse to their choice of wheels with the arrival of a model bearing the name of luxury fashion house, Moschino. In an attempt to add to the illusion of glamour, the Clio boasted a number of golden details, but by far the most striking feature was the Milan brand’s sizeable logo emblazoned across the roof. Not a car to go for if you want to fly under the radar….
MINI Paceman Cavalli
The Clio not OTT enough for you? How about this then? Created by renowned Italian fashion designer Robert Cavalli, this one-off MINI Paceman was auctioned off in Vienna, Austria, in 2013 to raise money for AIDS charities. The Paceman’s look was polarising enough to begin with – the three-door Evoque-aping mini-SUV was never entirely convincing – but Cavalli’s version took things to a whole new level. Among its standout features were an iridescent paint that was black or brown depending on the light, numerous Cavalli logos, a gold roof and wheels and leather upholstery that featured the brand’s trademark animal prints. Nice. Still, it did raise 150,000 Euros for a very worthy cause.
Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 Roadster by Versace
Even supercar makers are not averse to dabbling in the world of fashion, with Lamborghini, in particular, enjoying a fruitful relationship with one of the most famous Milan fashion houses, Versace. The first collaboration was a special edition Murcielago LP640 revealed at the 2006 Paris Motor Show, of which only 20 were made available to the general public. It paved the way for an even more exclusive Roadster version in 2008, a built- to-order stunner in pastel white that came with Versace’s traditional classic Greek fret on the door, a glass engine cover and more branding inside, and was accompanied by a set of accessories including luggage and sportswear. Debate still rages among Lambo fans over how many Versace editions were ultimately made, but it is undeniably one of the rarest versions of the Roadster.