In 1920 F Scott Fitzgerald took what turned out to be a rather rocky road trip from Connecticut to Alabama in a used Marmon so Zelda could rekindle with her childhood in the south. His upbeat account of the eight day adventure were later published in book form as The Cruise of the Rolling Junk. Zelda was less generous with the journey writing simply: ‘the joys of motoring are more-or-less fictional’. When building his 1924 Type 35, Ettore Bugatti modelled the engine first in wood to make sure the proportions were right for the car. In 1933 the racing driver Francis Turner was killed while testing Buckminster Fuller’s crazy-shaped three-wheeled Dymaxion since the architect and inventor didn’t bother too much with mastering aerodynamics and proper engineering so his prototype lifted at speed making it impossible to steer or brake as Turner was to tragically discover. The Fiat Lingotto Turin facility and its cinematic pista were the work of a naval architect by the name of Giacomo Matté-Trucco who was inspired by the theories of the Italian Futurists.
These are just some of the myriad of topics gathered from the car-besotted century by Stephen Bayley in his latest book The Age of Combustion – an edited selection of his Octane column, The Aesthete. This is a hugely engaging book and Bayley is a natural raconteur. His writing is erudite but also light and fun – forever weaving his immense pool of knowledge on architecture and design and cinema and literature and life into multiple narratives. Or to quote the industrial designer J Mays: ‘No one articulates the Theatre of Design like Stephen Bayley.’
Balenciaga has been rethinking the unsustainable pace of fashion. The luxury house has been looking at how it can progressively evolve the way in which it presents its collections to the post-pandemic world. Balenciaga isn’t of course alone in challenging a system steeped in tradition which relies on a fixed and ecologically wasteful number of collections, and shows that are increasingly out-of-touch with the consumer habits of a young global audience.
Now the marque has said it will show just four key ready-to-wear gender-inclusive collections with a separate haute couture line annually. What’s probably more exciting is that starting with the autumn/winter 2021 collection, the shows will be performed to an exclusive list in digital format and through virtual runways via headsets, while animated and interactive video games will aim for a wider audience.
The first of the series was revealed over the weekend. ‘Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow’ is an augmented-reality interactive video game set in an imaginary 2031, with Balenciaga’s avatars wearing designs made from upcycled materials and created through advanced techniques to signify fashion as enduring and sustainable. And they are driving Polestar’s visionary concept vehicles.
See the full story here and take a look at Afterworld here.
The new Rolls Royce Ghost is reflective of a visual language for a (hopefully) more subtle and discreet post-pandemic luxury landscape. Seen – and to be driven later this month – this is an accomplished product that wears its wealth lightly. And I’m sincerely hoping the design team will entice their wealthy and influential customers to invest in more sustainable fabrics inside and to use this as a vehicle for exploring materials beyond the traditional leather and wood.
The pandemic has given us the opportunity to rethink our world, help imagine an altogether better one, a more sustainable one … and this extends very much to how we view the design of more exclusive items. They can lead the way.
A little while ago I co-wrote a book entirely dedicated to the sweet side of life – much of which existed purely in the imagination. The design critic Stephen Bayley generously wrote of The Life Negroni: ‘It is an album, a love letter, a guide, a memoir and a rich source of graphic delight.’
With a sweet spot for any project that defies convention and (even better) isn’t made for profit, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by this one: A product created entirely out of a deep passion for a classic cocktail, love of cars and a thirst for adventure.
This Negroni Trunk – by New York men’s style fixture and founder/editor of lifestyle magazine WM Brown Project Matt Hranek – is designed entirely to make life just that little bit more pleasurable. It certainly works for me.
As head of BMW’s cultural engagement, Thomas Girst is deeply passionate about arts and ideas. He involves the company in some really interesting projects which not only help these artists and institutions – many of whom rely entirely on corporate sponsorship – but the partnerships also subtly boost BMW’s brand image externally and internally.
Of course, there’s always been a mutually seductive rapport between art and money – and BMW isn’t alone even among car companies to tap into the art world. Yet, not all sponsorships and patronages feel genuine. Some are so off the rail you do wonder who signed the cheque. Girst’s work, though, is different. His choices are relevant to the brand and are topical. They can also be daring – be it exploring the virtual real, the seducing powers of technology, or the plight of the refugee. The latest partnership looks at the climate crisis with Leelee Chan, the winner of the BMW Art Journey with Art Basel, examining how ancient materials and their future substitutes from the fields of nanotechnology and biotechnology inform our debate around ecological and cultural sustainability.
I spoke with Girst following the Art Journey announcement to see where he feels the art world is heading. And he spoke passionately about the vital need for corporations to sponsor and support the arts in the post-pandemic world. He also offered some valuable tips as to how businesses can best get involved with the creative world. Take a closer look here