Precision. Perfection. Innovation. These are words you'd expect to hear at the launch of a new tech start-up. Instead they're synonymous with the latest capsule collection from fashion giant Hugo Boss and carmaker Porsche, which launched at New York's Pier 17 earlier this year.
On a stormy summer night, the city's fashion set rubbed shoulders with motorsport fans inside a vast warehouse space overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge on the eve of the FIA Formula E Championship. The 10-piece collection, which will be available in Australia from November, is an integration of precision tailoring and sportswear that includes a leather bomber jacket cut so sharply it works with denim or tailored trousers; a burgundy suit that can be broken into its parts; and elevated knitwear. It's the second collaboration to come from the two German brands, cementing a partnership which sees Boss designing the official uniforms of the Porsche racing teams.
The range presents menswear in its purest form, putting function first and letting the materials and construction do the rest. No surprises, really, when you discover the collection was inspired by the sleek lines of a Porsche sports car. "Our chief creator, Ingo Wilts, sat down with the chief designer from Porsche, Michael Mauer, and said "OK, what are the design elements when you think about a new 911?"," says BOSS CEO Mark Langer when we meet the next day in Manhattan's financial district. "We spent a lot of time bringing key design elements and colour stories together – it's very monochrome with a strong focus on core colours for Porsche and an expression of fashion to it."
Eagle-eyed fan of Porsche will notice the references immediately. For example, the lightweight zip-neck sweater reveals subtle red detailing across the shoulders that recalls the 911's rear brake lighting. The Italian cotton tailored trousers, cut for more ergonomic movement, come with discrete functional side pockets that, while allowing extra storage for small personal effects such as keys, retain their sharp silhouette. Pricing remains within traditional Boss measurements, thankfully, and not the 911's, with polos going for $299 and the leather jacket at $1799.
Australian audiences will already be familiar with the official ambassador of the AW19 line, with former Porsche racer Mark Webber being named as face of the campaign. "I was buying Porsches before I was [driving] with Porsche and I was already wearing Boss in the late '90s," Webber says. "I think that the two brands, Boss and Porsche, linking together was obvious for me … because they're both incredibly trusted, they're elegant, they're sexy and they have a tremendous ability to continue to innovate and reinvent themselves," he adds.
This intersection of fashion and motorsport isn't new ground and Webber is joining a well-respected lineage. Aside from the glamour of the marquees and trackside antics that take place at some of the biggest meets around the world, there's a strong tradition of motorsport drivers as trend setters. Former F1 champion Nico Rosberg asserts that the history between fashion and racing is a long one. "This link is so obvious," says Rosberg, who at the age of 16 was one of the youngest brand ambassador selected by Boss. "Racing is stylish, all the way back to Steve McQueen and Jackie Stewart in the '70s with the big sunglasses. It was always fashionable and race car drivers have always been trend setters."
Rosberg would know. The 34-year-old is also a primary investor in the growing Formula E, motorsport using only electric cars. Rosberg, Langer, and Webber agree this is the natural direction in an industry that is increasingly cognisant of its environmental impact, something the fashion industry has slowly started to take stock of in recent years . There's clearly a push from both sectors to move forward in a way that presents the best solutions for the consumer, the environment, and of course the business. "It was a difficult call for us to move from the bigger stage of the F1 to the smaller stage of the FE," Langer says. "That's a question I'm asked a lot – why, when it is so niche? But in terms of technology and sustainability, I just say well maybe this new chapter is something that opens a new perspective to the customer."
There's no denying that at only 10 items the new Porsche x Boss capsule is an exercise in minimalism. But Boss as a brand has a more streamlined approach not just to their business model but also how they see the modern man dressing. Under the captaincy of Langer, the entire Boss brand has undergone a similar nip and tuck. One of Langer's biggest decisions, made shortly after his move from CFO to CEO, was to shut down the Boss Orange and Boss Green verticals, which saw an impact of approximately €450 million ($723 million) on revenue. But the risk paid off and the brand has regained its foothold in the menswear market.
The Porsche x Boss collaboration is about providing consumers with multipurpose garments that fit into the complex lives of the people who wear them. "There's no longer two (casual or formal) elements to menswear anymore. There's only one," explains Langer. "It [menswear] is now very much inspired by athleisurewear but it still has to have the quality used in our tailored suiting. This is an extremely interesting twist."
The writer travelled to New York with assistance from Boss.