The design ambition of MINI to go above and beyond

By Christopher Metler

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Written by Christopher Metler

We’re beyond the medieval gates of Fortezza da Basso, a monumental stronghold inserted within Florence’s 14th-century walls. Right now, the historic, open-air site is a veritable breeding ground of outlandishly clothed individuals, many sporting over-the-top ensembles, vibrant titfers and innumerable eye-catching adornments. Sartorialism on steroids, as we suddenly remember reading it described somewhere.

Yes, it’s peak ‘peacock’ hour here at Pitti Uomo, the suited-and-booted Italian fashion fair which, since 1972, has been hosted twice a year to promote aspiring and oftentimes unconventional couture labels. Moreover, we’ve been told that, from 2015 onwards, this perennial street-style extravaganza’s proudly partnered with MINI — the stylish and self-confident British automotive marque — for a sustained collaboration. One showcasing the pair’s combined passion for innovation, attention to detail and quality, plus a canny ability to anticipate contemporary lifestyle movements.

It comes as a mild shock to discover a timeless automaker like MINI is participating in the fast-paced world of fashion. However, further insight reveals MINI has long maintained a profound connection with the industry and stimulated trendsetters. Take London’s immortal Mary Quant, who famously originated the miniskirt in the 1960s and termed it after her best-loved car.

Of course, fashion is also rooted in design — a strand of the MINI DNA. “Good design is the core of the brand,” elaborates Marc Lengling, Head of MINI Brand Management. Which renders the offshoot MINI Fashion line an organic proprietary extension, advancing on MINI’s design ambitions to equip urban nomads for every turn of their way.

On display today at Pitti Uomo 94, the 16-piece Field Notes capsule collection boasts a quartet of budding names in the rag trade. In fitting MINI form, they’ve dared to be brave, bold, and open-minded. One duo has combined technology and design with experiments on materials and colours. Another challenges the traditional vision of knitwear, marrying whimsical prototypes with architectural dimensions of unorthodox knitting techniques.

Lengning claims teaming with these youthful talents is a strategy to forge different perspectives, ideas and inspiration in an effort to conceive something novel and invigorating. That despite MINI possessing an outlook towards fashion which isn’t hard to interpret, the joint effort allows them to explore varying elements of their approach, as well as chart new directions.

“The first focus is not to discuss our products in detail, but really show our mindset and what we stand for with MINI. And we bring something with us that fits with the content. We want to bring something to the party, that’s what we always say.”

It’s this dedication to inventive spirit and iconic design around which MINI has shaped its identity. Suffice it to say, but set against the breathtaking backdrop of progressive Pitti Uomo, the extent to which MINI Fashion has built on these principles — with unexpected ideas driven by curiosity, creativity and a resourceful imagination — couldn’t be any more apparent.

“We’re integrating ourselves into this whole thing and we want to start conversations,” Lengning declares. “And that’s exactly what you see here.”

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