I recently met with the founders of Albion, a British cycle clothing company that looks to ride the wave of lockdown-powered energy for the great outdoors. Ostensibly, they make unfussy, high-quality cycle garb – bib shorts, windproof gilets, lightweight jerseys etc – but the long-term aim is to expand beyond cycling and come to be the go-to British brand for all forms of ‘adventure’, be that climbing, trail running, surfing; whatever. (Albion’s logo is a jagged line, which I took to be a cycling route. But, as the guys say, it could be a coastal outline, or even an overhanging cliff face. It’s purposefully interpretable.) Considering Patagonia’s growth from climbing equipment company to outdoor behemoth and gorpcore deity (have you heard founder Yvon Chouinard’s episode of NPR’s podcast How I Built This? You simply must, my loves), it seems like a solid plan.
Albion is quietly sustainable, too, using recycled fabrics throughout the collection. ‘Quietly’ because they feel the use of recycled fabrics and other such ethical practices in fashion/sportswear/accessories, is going to be industry-standard in the near future. That is to say, if you’re not sustainable, you’ll be wasting your time. Albion is a good signifier of where the clothing (loosely speaking) industry is right now. In a post-pandemic landscape, the zeitgeist is for adventure, artisanship, ethics and function. The zeitgeist is for experience. That has been coming – people have steadily been spending more on travel, classes, fitness etc and less on stuff for a while now, but Covid-19 put everything on fast-forward. It’s why, perhaps, big luxury brands are making experiential stuff, too.
There is a Louis Vuitton tent. I first saw it in January, erected coyly in the corner of the Paris showroom where the Autumn/Winter 2021 collection, shown the day before, was on display to press. The two-man tent – realised in water repellent, monogram-printed fabric – comes as an accessory to a mirrored backpack trunk, and looks to evoke the maison’s “nomadic spirit” (LV is founded on the making of trunks, and continues to produce and evolve the product to this day).
It’s a proper tent, though. Something you could actually carry in a back pack (or backpack trunk) and pitch in a wooded glen, or within staggering distance of the Nyetimber tent at Wilderness. Louis Vuitton also make foosball tables (from £50,000) and ping pong paddles (£1,530) but they’re too nice to actually use. However this tent seems legit. It looks like something out of Moonrise Kingdom, if Moonrise Kingdom had been set in Knightsbridge.
Berluti recently unveiled a beach buggy, which is available on special order. Set on top of a VW Beatle chassis, the polyester shell is proudly Berluti-branded, while the cockpit is upholstered in the Parisian brand’s finest leather, which is, consequently, the best leather there is. Akin to the Vuitton Tent, the buggy comes as an add-on to Berluti’s collab with suitcase maker Globe-Trotter, but I'm sure if you really wanted one, they could do it without the suitcases. The buggy’s roll-bar doubles as a surfboard stand, which is natty, but not the kind of design quirk I expected from a brand known best for patinated loafers. But that’s the landscape now.
Hermès makes a surfboard that might warrant the investment in a Berluti buggy. They have a fly-fishing kit, too, and skateboards, and bicycles. And Moncler has just unveiled its take on the e-bike, an Alpine-chic edition of the Matebike, which has a range of 70 miles and tops out at 26mph. In June, Dior jammed itself in the centre of a Venn diagram of Milanese Influencers’ favourite things by releasing images of its imminent collab with Vespa. No, not a moped-themed handbag, but a scooter of course! One designed to distil “the freedom of movement and expression that [Dior and Vespa] hold so dear,” say the brand.
Now, more cynical people than me might suggest that these objets-folie serve more as press fodder than they do as actual salient product lines. (Although this column might support that theory.) There will only ever be a few of each made, and even then, they’ll be fiendishly hard to get hold of. Be that as it may, they still track the undulating tastes of the market. Look at Mr Porter; it currently stocks luxury tools, limited edition skateboards and a sterling silver whistle, which I can only assume is reserved for referees with a peerage.
Previously, the way you spent your money defined you, now it’s the way you spend your time that says the most. It’s why Oliver Spencer just collaborated with Brompton Bikes, why Fendi’s current collection is inspired by gardening, why Loewe used the laidback, post-Ushuian energy of Balearic style to power its recent Paula’s Ibiza collection. “In this collection the sense of escapism and joy becomes total,” said creative director Jonathan Anderson. Not sex appeal and wealth, taste and social standing, success and popularity; none of things expensive clothes traditionally evidenced.
“Escapism and joy.” The two things everyone wants right now, and it comes in tie-dye!
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