Words: Peter Howarth
Following on from its new fully custom-made service, enabling you to have pretty much anything you want created from scratch by the team at Bugatti, the motoring marque has created a walk-in – or at least, reach-in – travel trunk.
In black, made from wood and metal, and with a woven-leather surface, it has a motif inspired by the grille of the famous 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic. Standing at head height, the trunk opens to reveal a mirror, hanging rails and compartments for shirts, shoes, knits, ties and other accessories. More than a beautiful and portable (if you own a jet or yacht) storage container, it is, explains Bugatti’s brand art director Daniele Andretta, emblematic of the firm’s mission to give customers a chance to have their entire wardrobe personally tailored. Let’s face it, once you have the wardrobe, you’ll need the clothes and accessories to fill it.
Bugatti, founded by Ettore Bugatti in 1909, was resurrected in 1998 by the Volkswagen Group and has since found world fame with its daring sports car, the Bugatti Veyron. Not content with the plaudits of the road, Bugatti has ventured into fashion design, reasoning that its customers might want some luxury clothing to go with their motors. The Bugatti name has certainly been a draw for the more than 450 who have bought the limited-edition Veyron (now sold out, but orders are apparently being taken for its next super-sports car). Currently, the fashion collection is one of very few ways you can own a piece of the brand. Another is to buy a previously owned Veyron, or even a vintage Bugatti.
Speaking of things vintage, at the top of the big travel trunk – really a piece of furniture on wheels – above the grille motif, sits what looks like a dancing elephant. On closer examination, that’s exactly what it is. ‘This was a sculpture made by Ettore Bugatti’s brother, Rembrandt,’ says Andretta. ‘As an homage to his, by then, late brother, Ettore put the sculpture on the best limousine there was in the world: the Bugatti Royale.’
When the idea of a custom-made service was mooted by the CEO, Andretta said, ‘We can do this, but I want it to be in every category, because we are able to tailor-make glasses, belts, every single type of apparel: big leather goods, small leather goods, shoes and ties.’ Andretta’s vision was simple: a customer visits the store in Brompton Road, sees a range of samples and, in consultation with head tailor Jonathan Clay, starts to build unique pieces. ‘If you like the leather of some shoes and want to put it in the back part of a jacket, you can do that,’ says Andretta. ‘You want the same fabrics for bags as for a suit, in the same colour with the same treatment? You can do that, too.’
He then shows me a shirt, and hypothesises that a client might prefer it with a French collar and in blue silk, which is no problem – nor would it be if someone asked for ‘this bag in this fabric with the centre-line stitching and the handle in crocodile leather’. All, it seems, is possible.
For Bugatti fashion, the initial idea was to make limited-edition pieces, and each item would come in a run of just 431. This number, in kilometres per hour, is the world-record speed of the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. But when the first Bugatti collection went on sale a year ago, Andretta realised he could deliver another level of product. The soul of this brand, he recognised, lay in the commitment to create a genuinely one-of-a-kind experience. Hence, the custom-made option came to fruition.
‘It’s important for us to understand the smell of the car,’ says Andretta, and it becomes apparent that here he is using the olfactory system to describe an intimate knowledge of the vehicle. ‘It’s an integral part of the project – you cannot disconnect from the car. And if you listen to it when you drive it, you understand its vibrations. I think it talks to you.’
It is an intensely personal relationship, and the tailor-made fashion division is born out of a desire to replicate that sort of passion. Andretta explains that each garment developed by Bugatti carries an envelope that includes the name of the craftsperson who made it. This, he explains, is because ‘we like the customer to know there is someone behind it – with a soul, with a heart’.
When Andretta says there are no limits to what Bugatti can do for its customers, he really means it. As he proudly shows me some of the ‘hundreds’ of leathers available, the crystal buttons that can be painted in any colour and initialled with a laser, and the ‘more than a thousand’ fabrics at his disposal – which turns out to be an infinite number, as Andretta can make fabrics specially for individual customers – I begin to understand that this enterprise owes more to the motor industry than just its badge.
It is head tailor Clay who perhaps articulates this best: ‘It’s not even fair to talk about “bespoke” or “made to measure”. This is “custom-built”. It’s a technical detail but, at the end of the day, this is [more in keeping with] the origins of the company. It’s what Bugatti does with a car.’
Clay explains just how unusual this is: ‘You have to imagine that when something is ordered from Bugatti, it’s “Let’s stop everything. We’ve got to work on this now”, which means drawing a pattern and having the team sitting there as you explain the product and process step by step.’
What’s clear is that, whether it’s a finely tuned 431kph motor or a unique, hand-made-in-Italy outfit you’re after, Bugatti has got it covered.
For more information, contact the Bugatti Lifestyle Boutique, 24–26 Brompton Road, London SW1X 7QN; 020 7589 8765; lifestyle-bugatti.com
Photography: Luca Patrone