Belstaff’s New Life

di Alessia Lucchese

Following its acquisition by Labelux, the outdoor brand has undergone a deluxe overhaul, as demonstrated by the first collection created by Martin Cooper and the two flagship stores that are due to open in London and New York in the autumn.

Belstaff’s New Life
Martin Cooper

True luxury: these two words are bandied about all too often in descriptions of fashion collections, but they sum up the Belstaff garments for Autumn-Winter 2012/13 perfectly. When Labelux bought the English brand – which is famous for its biker chic outdoor garments – in June 2011, its strategy was to move it into the luxury end of the market. Designer Martin Cooper was brought in to guide the relaunch. He previously spent 16 years at Burberry, and served for the last 10 of these years alongside the creative director Christopher Bailey. Cooper has infused an incredibly high-end feel throughout the collection, which gives a contemporary twist to the Belstaff tradition. The next move in the grand plan for the label will be to open two flagship stores in the autumn: at 814 Madison Avenue in New York and at 135 New Bond Street in London.

What was it like moving to a brand with such an impressive archive?

Belstaff has a marvellous history and I wanted to embrace its heritage as much as possible. I believe that it is necessary to take into account the values and the incredible tradition of the brand when mapping out its future. I liked the idea of a return to the world of bikers and motorcycling, which has always been the inspiration for Belstaff’s collections. I started out with two iconic jackets: the Roadmaster and the Trialmaster. They boast unique silhouettes that many other brands have tried to imitate. Therefore, I decided to send out a message: Belstaff is back, and from now on we are reclaiming this silhouette. We will give it a new style as we make it ours once again.

Belstaff was founded as an outerwear label, but in your first collection you have also shown fresh interest in accessories. How important is it today for luxury brands to present a total look?

I believe that it is essential nowadays for high-end brands to have lifestyle images built around the practical elements in a modern wardrobe. Men and women use their choice of jackets, shoes, skirts and trousers to express their personalities. The looks that they put together reveal the way that they live. Accessories such as bags and footwear give an additional touch of character.

What are the characteristics of the Belstaff woman?

We can perhaps say that she is a dynamic figure with a multi-faceted personality. This collection reflects the different aspects of everyday life. It is suitable for both the city and the countryside. It is feminine with masculine features, and it contains both hard and soft textures. In short, it aims to sum up all of the sides of the Belstaff woman. The same applies for the menswear, which is based on contrasts. It is no coincidence that 80% of the collection is made up of female and male takes on the same concept for a garment.

Is this what makes Belstaff different from other brands?

I have always thought that anything that looks good on a man can also work well for women and this was my guiding principle when I designed the new versions of the Roadmaster. I am certain that many other labels make little effort to create a link between their men’s and women’s collections. Sometimes it feels like you are looking at two different brands. However, it is important to establish a connection and make the two sides of the collection interact. I have also discovered that Belstaff has an almost magical quality: it makes you look like a different person as soon as you put on one of its garments. It gives you strength and makes you feel powerful. I don’t know how many other brands can claim to do that.

For the relaunch, you opted for a presentation during fashion week. Don’t you feel the urge to get back on the catwalk?

I cannot deny that it is part of our plans. If one day we decide that the time is right, I think that we will do it in London, which – together with New York – is the location of our headquarters. However, it is not one of our short-term objectives. The first collection had to show the new direction taken by the brand and we needed buyers and the press to be able to get a close look at the garments and the extremely high quality of the materials, which would be impossible to see on the catwalk.