One doesn’t automatically relate the car industry with the fashion industry, but that’s exactly what happened at this year’s New York Fashion Week (NYFW). The 2020 Kia Telluride made its debut at designer Brandon Maxwell’s Texas-inspired runway collection for Spring/Summer 2019. The worlds of automotive and fashion were effortlessly blended together — complete with a ranch-ready Telluride that was adorned with saddlelike leather accents.
Tailgating has never been so stylish.
If you think about it, there is a natural connection between cars and fashion — design, style, craftsmanship and colors are all important in both worlds. Plus, fashion influences nearly all aspects of our lives. It can affect the way we think, the way we behave and, of course, the way we look. It influences our taste, our mood and our emotions, and a car’s design, much like clothing, is meant to appeal to our senses, to inspire us, to help us feel protected, feel empowered and feel excited. Both the automobile industry and the fashion industry aim to take the finest materials and create a product that is a desirable good that encapsulates and expresses a lifestyle.
"When I left Marfa, Texas, where I designed my SS’19 collection, I started talking with Kia," Maxwell said. "I wanted a partner who could help fill a need in Marfa’s public school system, and Kia was looking to create a unique integration for their new Telluride. It was a natural fit as Kia has a long history of philanthropic initiatives that support education."
The collaboration between the designer and the automotive brand is not only providing funding that is necessary for children of Marfa to receive a quality education, but it’s also providing a vehicle for local teachers’ use.
Aside from a good cause, the partnership also provided the perfect backdrop for Maxwell’s tailgate-themed runway. The fun and creative approach to the evening had Shake Shack burgers being handed out and adult beverages available in Maxwell’s signature sippy cups that were adorned with the words, "This is a sippy cup." Guests took their seats on Yeti coolers, lawn chairs and even in the back of old pickup trucks. Not your typical NYFW show by any means, but then again Maxwell has said numerous times that the most important thing to him about his shows is that people have fun.
With 43 looks that walked down the runway on supermodels including Bella and Gigi Hadid and Lily Aldridge, Maxwell, the former Lady Gaga fashion director, provided an evening that felt like an elegant tailgate and was just simply a whole lot of fun.
"A tailgate is a very Southern thing," Maxwell said, describing his inspiration for the environment of the runway show. "The south is something I went to a lot as a kid — and tailgate parties. So I had sort of reimaged it in my mind the way I would have wanted it to be as a kid — which is very glamorous. And I think that was what it was. And the clothes themselves, it was more easy and flowy, and cottons and colorful — I don’t know. It’s just where I’m at 33 — mentally."
For Kia’s part, a one-of-a-kind Telluride sat at the head of the runway and included a number of nods to the Texas roots that inspired Maxwell. Natural wood interior trim and saddle-inspired double-stitched leather adornments on the dash, door panels and grab handles paired beautifully with similar leather details on the outside of the rearview mirrors and door handles. On the outside of the vehicle, the Telluride’s boxy exterior looks ready to go off-roading with its 265/50R-20 off-road tires, custom front and rear bumpers, skid plates and sidestep sills. There’s a spare tire that has been custom mounted to the rear hatch that pairs beautifully with the custom wood and aluminium roof rack. Seeing the Telluride up close and outside the confines of an auto show, the big SUV looks a lot like a rugged Volvo.
The Telluride itself looks like it’s ready for more than a fashion show. At first, the leather seems more pretty than rugged, but then you see some actual get-the-job-done equipment like a hidden winch and a snorkel to keep the engine breathing even when crossing rivers and streams.
So what parts of the vehicle did Maxwell influence?
"I will say, to be totally honest, the first version that they showed me, was basically exactly what I wanted," Maxwell explained. "They came to me exactly like I present a collection to my team. They filled a room with references, images, mock-ups, color swatches, paints and all these things, so that’s exactly how I start a collection, which is I present to my team where I am, what I’m thinking, what I want it to be and I have references of that. That’s exactly what they did with this car."
Maxwell’s favorite feature in the custom Telluride? He called out two features — his logo and the rims.
"The black rims. That was the thing that was most important to me," Maxwell laughed.
"From one designer to another, I really respect what they do. I’m not a car designer. I hate when people come to me and tell me what to do about clothes, and I’m a clothing designer," Maxwell smiled. "So I really respected their process and obviously their knowledge and education on the subject — and their job. But in terms of the aesthetics of the car, visually, it was serendipitous that we were on the same page."
As for Brandon Maxwell, is it possible we could see more come from his relationship with Kia in the future?
"I think you’ll have to stay tuned, but I think that’s a very good possibility," Maxwell teased.
Unfortunately, the custom 2020 Kia Telluride that was designed for Maxwell’s show will not be available for purchase, but those interested in the new model can look for it in early 2019. The stylish new SUV will sit up to eight passengers and will provide a new, V6-powered option and will be assembled at Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia.