The world of high-performance racing cars could not be further away than that of jewellery, so it was intriguing to see the outcome of a recent collaborative venture between the king of Formula One McLaren and jeweller Links of London.
Fashion is often flirting with carmakers. High-end brands such as Rolls Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin are forever commissioning luxury marques such as Louis Vitton to create bespoke luggage for them, or to help style a one-off car. Sadly, the outcome isn’t always that inspiring.
Here, however, the results are quite different. The small collection of men’s jewellery and accessories, which go on sale this month, really do capture the spirit of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 cars.
The process was quite simple. Links of London’s creative director for men’s jewellery Philippe Cogoli visited the McLaren Technical Centre, met with some of the team including director of engineering Tim Goss to get a feel for how McLaren operates and what this company stands for.
Anyone who has visited the Foster-designed building (and DT has done here) cannot help be captivated not just by the architecture, but the whole immaculate set-up where company boss Ron Dennis famously scrutinises each and every move, down to the daily flower arrangement in the lobby and the various contemporary art pieces that sit alongside old F1 cars and a cabinet proudly displaying the company’s many, many racing wins.
This is where Cogoli went to get inspired, returning to his London headquarters with some screws and bolts leftover from making the latest F1 car for inspiration. His collection is clearly mechanically inspired. It captures what McLaren stands for which on the one hand is movement and energy, and on the other, first class engineering and the use of very sophisticated material that are needed to create these ultimate speed machines.
We caught up with the Cogoli and Goss in London before the launch at the McLaren Automotive showroom in One Hyde Park to find out more.
DT What is the first thing you consider when designing a F1 car?
Goss The process will invariably start with a brainstorming session when we work out how to extract the most performance from the constraints the regulations place on us. In the face of obstacles we are constantly challenging mechanical design requirements.
DT What attracted the two companies to one another?
Cogoli Both brands share a similar philosophy of excellence in their fields, of producing products with a purpose, of pushing the boundaries with design and they share a pride in being British.
DT Was it difficult to marry these very different worlds of F1 and jewellery?
Cogoli Yes definitely – it was a real challenge. By essence they are totally different in their own environment, therefore only some of the elements were transferable and so a certain amount of subtlety was required to achieve products that are wearable but with a distinctive look.
DT Were there any similarities in the process and your design steps?
Goss Research is definitely a stage that both Philippe and I go through. Through our research activities this may be finding new materials, or inventing new systems, the overall philosophy and layout of the car starts to take shape. Though clearly the activities are different the process the same.
DT What was the starting point for you in terms of the design process?
Cogoli The starting point was learning more about the McLaren organisation and DNA, and translating this into the jewellery world, ensuring the core values of both brands were represented.
DT Philippe was working with different materials for this collection, how do you work through the challenges of complex material development?
Goss Material development and production processes are often what make the unachievable achievable. We place impossible demands on designers to achieve an aerodynamic. The resolution is to maybe find a new material or to rethink an existing one.
DT What aspect of the cars most inspired the jewellery collection?
Cogoli Various spare parts of the car, high-tech material and functionality. In addition we used inspiration from the McLaren Technology Centre, taking the trademark screw used in the building (which appears in the jewellery collection).
DT How closely did you follow the technical components of the car when designing the jewellery?
Cogoli Various parts of the car provided inspiration loosely but a balance has to be achieved between the engineering and the fashion/jewellery world.
DT What inspired you the most when you visited MTC?
Cogoli The level of perfection and ultimate achievement of the highest standard with every aspect of their field, from small details through to the overall futuristic building.
DT What inspired the men’s accessories range?
Cogoli The idea behind the small leather goods was to introduce a touch of high-tech material such as Kevlar – well known in the car industry – and a hardware piece integrated into the shape inspired by the rear of the F1 car.
DT Did you have a specific male customer in mind when designing the line?
Cogoli From the start it was clear that McLaren Sport and Links of London share a similar type of customer so it was very clear to whom the collection should be aimed. After that the aim was building a collection that allowed that customer to purchase a piece suited to their own personality.
DT Both the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 car and the jewellery collection are functional yet surprisingly elegant. How do you achieve this?
Goss The car is designed to great precision, down to the paint thickness, which may alter its aerodynamic profile. It’s the weightlessness of the car that gives it its elegance. Philippe in his collection has brought that elegance and precision with the end result being engineered art.
DT For you what were the major challenges of working with automotive designers?
Cogoli The major challenge was to create a jewellery line that best mirrored the intricacies, precise engineering and technical brilliance of an F1car. I believe the shapes we have chosen and the fabrics we have used have helped us to achieve this.
DT Do you have any plans to design another collection – perhaps one for women?
Cogoli Hopefully this is just a start of a long and successful collaboration and additional designs are in study. The option for a unisex line is open to development.
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