Driving Fashion
Part 1: A Look Back to MINI and its Fashion Collaborations
Words | Ztephen Lee

Some say cars and clothing are two of the most revealing things about a person, because they reflect a person’s tastes and preferences as well as their economic status. That is why auto brands collaborate with fashion houses to strive for individuality and relevance, responding to their target audience who are attracted to the fashion world and demand an exclusive retail experience.

In the long history of auto manufacturers collaborating with fashion brands, one would generally create a unique car exterior design to coincide with launch of new models or create a special edition of one of their vehicles in order to generate public awareness. Some auto companies pursue fashion in a more direct way; Bentley, Bugatti, Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin and Rolls Royce have all launched their own clothing lines to expand their retail business.

So how does auto and fashion complement each other?

Since 2002, British automotive marque MINI has been the official sponsor of Life Ball, an annual charity event organised by the non-profit organisation AIDS LIFE in Europe supporting people with AIDS/HIV. Each year MINI invites different fashion brands or designers to design a new car exterior for its vehicles. Designers such as Roberto Cavalli, Diane von Furstenberg, Versace, Dsquared2, Diesel and Calvin Klein have created their own interpretation of the Mini over the past years and the one-off Mini Cooper would subsequently be auctioned at the event with all proceeds going to the cause. MINI continued the sponsorship until 2013, when the company was replaced by Audi in 2014.

While MINI has collaborated with many fashion designers for Life Ball, one of its most iconic collaborations must be the Rover Mini designed in conjunction with British designer Paul Smith in 1997. The one-off creation was painted with 86 stripes in 24 colors and was first presented at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show. After its grand unveiling, Paul Smith incorporated the design as a graphic print called “Mini Graphic Edge” into his accessories collection, such as wallet and cufflinks. Apart from this distinctive partnership, MINI has also worked with supermodel Kate Moss and legendary rock star David Bowie to create two special-edition Mini Coopers to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary in 1999.

With the new MINI Clubman making its debut last year, the company has been holding launch events in selected regions around the world. When the new generation MINI Clubman launched in Hong Kong last November, pop-singer and film director Juno Mak was invited to the design the “Inspired by MINI Clubman” collection, which includes decorative interior elements in the 6-door 5-seater Clubman and a few lifestyle accessories to infuse the pop singer’s unique aesthetics into the driving experience.



Last week, MINI joined forces with Pitti Immagine to set up an exhibition to promote the new Clubman at the 89th Pitti Uomo, one of the world’s most important bi-annual menswear trade-show in Florence, Italy. With the theme of “Pitti Generation(s)”, the exhibition was inspired by the typical characteristics of the new Mini Cooper with an aim to create a platform for young and old, where people spontaneously follow their own instinct and explore their identity in an authentic way. While promoting its new generation of Clubman, MINI also presented “The Latest Fashion Buzz”, showcasing a selection of a few up-and-coming fashion designers with their latest collections at the event.


Although the above only shows a few notable fashion collaborations that MINI has been involved with over the past years, it is enough to see how much the fashion collaborations compliment MINI’s creations. Whether it is for charitable purposes or generating marketing buzz, fashion collaborations have undoubtedly become a key tool for auto companies to reach a wider and different audience. We will continue to look further into the relationship between auto companies and fashion in the following weeks.