Thom Browne, Zac Posen Help Design Infiniti Cars, Clutch IncludedThe Fashion Designers Work On a Pair of One-Of-A-Kind Luxury Vehicles
September 04, 2013
Wall Street Journal
by Christina Binkley
Fashion designers create all sorts of non-apparel products these days— Jason Wu even designs Brizo plumbing supplies. Following that tradition, online retailer Gilt Groupe Inc. and Japanese auto maker Infiniti are about to announce that U.S. designers Thom Browne and Zac Posen have created his and hers versions of the 2014 Infiniti Q50 luxury sedan to be sold on Gilt.com.
Infiniti's engineers set parameters for the designers. The rules included no rhinestones on the dashboard (they could be a safety hazard) and "don't go cutting the roof off," says Keith St. Clair, director of marketing for Infiniti USA. Both designers are known for pushing the edges of apparel design—Mr. Browne for his shrunken suits for men, Mr. Posen for his dramatically draped evening gowns for women.
Mr. Browne—who created the "his" version, went for the jugular with a mirrored chrome finish that will allow buyers to watch their own reflection approaching the car. He designed detailing in the interior doors, carpet and back seats with a thin strip of his signature red-white-blue stripes. He also created luggage to fit in the trunk.
Mr. Posen also wanted to go with a mirrored finish for the "hers" version of the Q50, but had to scrap the plan after Mr. Browne beat him to it. So he went ombré, calling for the car to fade from silver in front to charcoal in back, and from matte to shine. "I thought of it like when we do degradé in tulle," he says, referring to a technique in which colors and textures morph in apparel. He created a clutch that holds a smartphone that also will be sold on Gilt. Mr. St. Clair says the car maker thinks the paint job will be a first for the company.
The two cars, each one-of-a-kind, were built in Japan and customized by metal crafters in Southern California. When they go on sale Dec. 12, they will be priced at $75,000—well above the $54,000 cost of a fully loaded Q50. Buyers will also get a $10,000 shopping credit on Gilt, a style consultation and either a silver card case (Browne version) or the clutch (Posen version). A portion of the sales price will go to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, a charity chosen by the two designers.
Gilt gets publicity and entertains its customers with this arrangement, Infiniti gets a loud launch amid the influential fashion set for the 2014 Q50 with an eye-catching marketing stunt, and the designers get extra buzz.
And then there's the driver's pleasure of having something no one else has. In Mr. Posen's version, chilly days will drive home that fact: The car's rear-window defroster will spell out "Zac."