Ever since I was a small boy I’ve had a deep and abiding love for Lotus Cars. This is partly the result of growing up a bike ride away from the Hethel factory and test track; in the summer holidays I regularly rode down to the test track in the hopes of seeing an Esprit go around the track.
My ardour was only intensified when at the age of eight I saw my first James Bond movie, ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, a film notable only for the Lotus Esprit that turns into a submarine.
So hearing that Lotus Cars were launching their own clothing and lifestyle label I was naturally intrigued, if not a little excited.
It’s not as unusual a venture as it might at first sound. Clothing labels have for years linked themselves to sport in the hopes of acquiring reflected glory and glamour: Hackett with its links to Rugby and Aston Martin Racing is a good example; not forgetting the most famous sporting association of them all of course, Ralph Lauren and Polo. Indeed, I’ve often wondered why we don’t see more traffic coming the other way, particularly in England.
These exclusive preview shots would suggest this is not a venture that is going to disappoint.
I’m told the aim is to “create a line with real fashion credentials, in line with other British heritage brands” and become a major international player on the fashion scene, not merely provide interesting souvenirs for Lotus fans. To that end the clothing and apparel reflect the racing heritage of Lotus, with particular reference to its racing glory days in the 60s and 70s – when gentleman racer and sartorialist Graham Hill drove them to the 1968 F1 World Championship.
But there is certainly plenty of motoring heritage and glamour to build on from this golden age of racing. Thanks to the peculiar genius of late founder Colin Chapman, Lotus became known for authenticity, innovation, design excellence and later on craftsmanship – the cars are still largely built by hand.
The collection is designed by an in-house team at Lotus drawn together from luxury fashion backgrounds. It’s all part of new CEO Dany Bahar’s (formally of Ferrari) vision to broaden the brand and expand the business – expect to see some exciting new cars in 2013 and 2014.
Garments already previewed feature sweaters of Loro Piana 100% cashmere yarn knitted at 18 gauge for a lightweight but soft touch. Cardigans and V-neck knits are textured in wide stripes to create a tyre-track effect with white armband detail hinting at race track road markings. Polo shirts and T-shirts feature double stitch edging and vintage Lotus logos, racing stripes and car silhouettes. Block colour numbers relate to the dates of famous racing victories of the 1960s and 70s, as well as 1948 – the year that Lotus founder Colin Chapman built the first car.
My favourite item is a hand-treated leather jacket, inspired by the 1970s drivers’ suits, using authentic design details in the form of protective quilted padding on the shoulders and a two-button side-fasten collar. The leather goods are made in the same factory that makes all the Ferragamo leather. The next most desirable item and a classic wardrobe staple is the navy quilted Paddock Coat with tan leather trim, reminiscent of the ‘Gentleman Driver’ look, with a discreet Lotus crest and luxurious fleece lining.
The collection certainly looks classic and very British, something I can only applaud. Styling details on many of the pieces refer to specific dates or numbers from Lotus’ history – race wins, car identification numbers etc. British Racing Green features prominently in the collection (referred to as Lotus Green on the website) and is the exact shade of the old Lotus car livery.
Officially launching on the Lotus website www.lotusoriginals.com on Wednesday, I have to say I don’t normally get excited by ‘luxury brands’, but I’m emotionally invested in this one and hope it proves a success. If current form and intent is any guide I think it will.