Formula One has always been a stylish sport.
The glamour of locations like Monte Carlo and Silverstone; the style nous of drivers like Aryton Senna, James Hunt or Lewis Hamilton; the endorsements of brands like Ray-Ban, TAG Heuer, Tommy Hilfiger and United Colors of Benetton… Fashion and F1 are closely entwined, and the fashion world has often looked to F1 – both explicitly and implicitly – for inspiration.
But not all F1 fashion is created equal. Brand collaborations in the fashion world have never been more common and F1 constructors have a long history of collaborating with fashion brands – Ferrari, for example, has a long-standing relationship with Puma. But very few of their modern collaborations could be considered that ‘fashion-forward’: branded polos, driving shoes, baseball caps… Typical sporting merch fare, nothing really that inspiring.
That’s why the recent announcement that McLaren is teaming up with cult LA fashion label Rhude on an exclusive new collaboration has rocked the fashion world – and adds further credence to McLaren’s reputation as one of the sports’ great innovators.
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Founded by young gun fashion designer Rhuigi Villaseñor in 2015, Rhude describes itself as “a design venture born out of Los Angeles, balancing luxury techniques with streetwear elements, showcased as ready-to-wear collections.”
Rhude has quickly become one of the most influential and exciting fashion brands in the game, with co-signs from the likes of JAY-Z, Justin Bieber and LeBron James adding to its credibility. Villaseñor’s hard work and creative drive have established him as very much part of the modern fashion pantheon alongside names like Kim Jones, Matthew M. Williams and Virgil Abloh.
The McLaren collaboration is set to be the centrepiece of Rhude’s FW2021 collection, titled ‘Storms Never Last’, with both brands releasing a stylish promotional film showing McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo rocking up to Villaseñor’s atelier in downtown LA in his new McLaren 765LT, trying on the new collection and generally shooting the shit.
Unsurprisingly, it’s got the fashion world hotter under the collar than Ricciardo when he took the Eau Rouge corner at Spa-Francorchamps during his history-making fastest lap…
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Villaseñor’s collection is exceedingly postmodern, taking cues from heritage racing attire and classic Americana and blending it with a very modern sensibility, and the branding of a very modern Formula One constructor. It’s somewhat Balenciaga or Gucci-esque in its execution, emblematic of how the line between streetwear and haute couture is continuing to blur.
But you may be asking yourself, how does a fashion collaboration have any bearing on McLaren’s performance as an F1 team?
What the collaboration with Rhude reveals is that McLaren has their finger on the pulse and are actively innovating. Giving a designer like Villaseñor free license to use their name and branding is a confident move from McLaren. It’s emblematic of a team; of a business that’s not afraid to take risks. At the end of the day, F1, like any other international sport, is a business. Teams not only have to work hard and innovate to get the edge on the track, but also to make sure they’ve got money coming in to keep the business ticking along.
Ricciardo and Villaseñor discuss in the film how the creative process behind fashion and the testing process that underpins F1 cars are very similar: both enterprises require a huge amount of testing, experimentation and hard work in order to get winning results. In this way, we can see how the collaboration reflects McLaren’s character as a team. Willing to experiment and explore new opportunities – like working with an up-and-coming designer like Villaseñor or taking on a new driver like Ricciardo – McLaren seem in a very healthy place ahead of the 2021 season.
The collaboration also speaks to a broader trend of change within the sport. Between F1’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement, spearheaded by world #1 Lewis Hamilton, to a more flexible race calendar in reaction to COVID-19, the high-octane sport has never been more dynamic.
Ricciardo’s first outing for McLaren alongside his talented young teammate Lando Norris will be at the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix on the 28th of March, as the Australian Grand Prix has been pushed back to the 21st of November due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Travel restrictions have also seen the Chinese Grand Prix indefinitely postponed, with Imola returning to the F1 calendar in its slot, formula1.com explains.