How the Fashion and Luxury Car Industries Sell Us a Lifestyle

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week
Mercedes Benz Fashion Week

by Cecelia Perez

You've heard of Mercedez-Benz and you've heard of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. 

Have you ever asked yourself why a luxury car brand would sponsor the foremost semi-annual fashion week event in the United States?

Cars and fashion have long experienced a symbiotic relationship. In fashion week celebrations all over the world you'll find sponsorships, displays or collaborative projects between automobile makers and fashion labels.

Luxury Begets Luxury

The cynical would say fashion is really just expensive clothing. That's like saying a Michaelangelo is just a doodle. Fashion sells us lifestyle, confidence and beauty—and so do major brands. Even Phoenix Fashion Week, next scheduled for October, uses more than fashion to sell clothes.

Imagine two consumers from Phoenix: one lives primarily in shorts from Walmart and local team sports gear. The other shops at Scottsdale boutiques and won't consider jeans unless they're Lucky Brand or better. Which consumer is going to start shopping for a new car at 

Phoenix BMW

and which will scour used car lots?

That doesn't tell us about the financial stability, job status or anything else about those consumers. But it's easy to see that one values luxury and style. That's the demographic luxury car manufacturers want to target.

Every Brand Has a Type

This is never more apparent than at an auto show. Take a look at different companies' showcases, and don't forget to really look at the models, often referred to as booth babes. Their entire appearance is designed to support the branding of the car and the brand as a whole. One such model blogs anonymously at Booth babes represent "aspirational brand messages," she wrote. They serve to tell consumers, subconsciously of course, what that brand is about. Jeep and off-road SUV brands present their products differently than BMW and other luxury brands.

Fashion designers do the same thing. The decor, lighting and music set the stage for the clothing you'll see on the runway. 

A Betsey Johnson show

will always be kookier than a Michael Kors show. That's the way it should be. Those brands have different audiences and consumers. High fashion is about more than what you wear, it's about who you want to be.

The Ultimate Match-Up

When Fiat set its sights on the American market in 2012, one car stood out from the rest. The Fiat 500 by Gucci was in many ways just a Fiat 500—but it was also a designer car. If you loved Gucci, like wouldn't-carry-any-other-handbag LOVE them, wouldn't you be tempted to go test drive this car? Can you imagine your favorite car, maybe a BMW M-series convertible or an Audi roadster, with a Louis Vuitton-styled interior? Until we see how successful Fiat's sales of the specialty car are, it's hard to speculate whether we'll see other brands following suit.


What's your dream car/designer match-up? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!