Richard James, fashion and BMW

BMW Park Lane transformed last week. This bright and airy car showroom, with its clean architecture and uncluttered interior, and vistas of Hyde Park, turned into a catwalk – a busy runway, models parading pastel-coloured summer suits along the long and narrow interior space. BMW Park Lane was the unusual venue for designer Richard James’ 2014 Spring/Summer collection, unveiled as part of London Collection: Men (LC:M).

Only in its second year, the event has evolved into one of the hottest weeks on the fashion calendar. Despite London’s renowned fashion schools, and the presence of Savile Row with its tailoring heritage, the city somehow lacked a dedicated menswear fashion week. Collections existed, but designers were forced to show these alongside their womenswear. With men’s fashion generally finding more prominence, LC:M is a timely event taking a little of the limelight away from the traditional menswear cities of Milan and Paris. Big names like Tom Ford, Alexander McQueen, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana are showing in London this year, as is New Yorker Rag & Bone and shoe designer Jimmy Choo.

LC:M has its own framework – at its heart is the idea of championing new talent. Back in 2005 Fashion East founder Lulu Kennedy and high street brand Topman formed MAN to support young designers and fund their collections. Some of London’s top designers including JW Anderson, James Long and Christopher Shannon first showed at MAN, as did Savile Row in 2009. The initiative’s success consequently led to the first LC:M showing just before the London Olympics and the event continues to champion young designers with 12 of the 29 catwalks from alumni of MAN or Fashion East.

There are certainly advantages for the likes of Richard James showing at a smaller event like this so as to avoid being swallowed up in larger brands with bigger budgets, and at unusual venues like the BMW showroom to attract media attention. For BMW, the connection is simple. Richard James is a designer gaining prominence with his immaculately tailored men’s clothing that has just the right dose of quirk for a contemporary edge. The collection is seemingly quite but on closer inspection beautifully crafted.

Will it impact on BMW design? This is doubtful given the speed in which fashion changes, and the lack of speed in which cars can for manufacturing reasons. But then this isn’t really the point. For BMW it is the sheer association that counts – it is enough rubbing shoulders with the likes of Richard James, and in this instance having the designer perform his latest catwalk at the flagship Park Lane showroom, to make a statement in the overcrowded world of brands.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

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