British institutions come in many shapes and sizes – tea, Coronation Street, fish and chips. Ask any international citizen for a list of ‘British design icons’, though, and chances are the response will include the Mini. Whether it’s the infamous door-blowing scene in The Italian Job or Steve McQueen’s customised metallic brown runner, the car is an iconic emblem of Cool Britannia that has stood for more than half a century.
So why step outside this heritage to launch an international style collection? To push boundaries, that’s why. Armed with a vision of global unity in a world that’s becoming increasingly fragmented, MINI set out to explore what could be achieved when we look ‘Beyond Native’. Looking at cultural tension as a creative source with the aim of challenging the way we view borders, the brand’s growing lifestyle arm has collaborated with five international designers to present a collection that’s created with the global citizen firmly in mind.
Of course, there’s only one place for a bona fide heritage style icon to present something new and exciting – Pitti Uomo. Heading up day two of the 92nd edition of the prestigious menswear event, the MINI quintet of future design classics struck a chord with the world’s editors.
FashionBeans: Why has MINI decided to branch into fashion?
Esther Bahne, head of MINI brand strategy and business innovation: MINI has always been a brand for people who dare to do things differently, to stand out. In the 1960s the first Mini became a design icon, and this heritage inspired us to launch MINI Fashion. We really wanted to stick our necks out and join with creatives to bring something new and bold to the industry.
As MINI is such a British brand, why did you decide to go so international for your latest collection?
MINI Fashion builds on the design ambitions of our heritage and going global builds on the brand’s tradition of constantly reinventing itself. The theme of this year’s collection is Beyond Native and our five international designers are highlighting the creative contrasts between cultural origins and adopted homelands.
Why did you choose to unveil the project at Pitti Uomo?
Both MINI and Pitti Uomo have a shared passion for innovation, attention to detail, the pursuit of quality and the determination to constantly excel themselves, as well as the ability to anticipate new trends. MINI and Pitti Uomo have been working together on various projects since January 2015.
How did you select the designers?
We selected the designers together with our partners Condé Nast and Pitti. Condé Nast have a great resource for talent research, Sara Maino, one of the most renowned talent scouts in fashion worldwide. All designers have been selected based on the main criteria of our concept MINI Fashion – Beyond Native: We chose designers that live and work in different places than their country of origin and encouraged them to bring their cultural ambivalence to another level and play with it in a disruptive and modern way: Co-creating a capsule collection with us for today’s urban traveller.
How did you decide on what to feature in the collection?
MINI worked closely with the designers to bring together a collection of items that best reflect the personalities, experiences and talents of the individual designers. Each piece combines traditional cultural cues inherent to the designer’s country of origin with contemporary elements from their adopted homes. The resulting Beyond Native collection transcends borders and cultures.
This is the third MINI Fashion capsule collection. Do you see it expanding?
We are looking into different options of talent curation on a global and also on a local level to identify the right platforms and associations (such as local fashion councils or other) – there is a probability that we’ll create a platform in the future where up-and-coming designers could also apply. Work in progress… As for now, if anyone is interested in working with MINI Fashion, they’re more than welcome to contact us at the headquarters and present their work to us.
While leaving the sunny climes of Brazil for the drizzle of Blighty may not appeal to all, Diego Vanassibara’s tranquil rural upbringing in South America clashes with his urban, architectural home in London to create a uniquely transatlantic output. The shoes he created for Beyond Native are based on the classic British Derby, with a laser-cut hole pattern adding a touch of Brazilian lightness and a chunky, corrugated sole reflecting his time in the city.
Austrian-born Edwina Hörl now lives and works in Japan, a cultural clash that has enabled her to address current social issues via her bi-annual collections, stirring critical debate and earning international acclaim. This European-Asian fusion extended to her piece in the Beyond Native collection. Taking a traditional Japanese haori coat, Hörl blended it with a tailored linen jacket, adding some trench coat detailing, before finishing it with a pure Indigo dye and sumi-coated lining – a material that reputedly has antiviral properties.
Sure to feel at home at Pitti Uomo, Chinese natives Yushan Li and Jun Zhou now live and work in Italy, aiming to establish new label Pronounce in one of the homes of great menswear. They’re on the right track too, as this year, MINI and Condé Nast teamed up to present the pair with ‘The Latest Fashion Buzz’ award. They’ve continued to show just why they’re deserved candidates with their latest piece, created for Beyond Native – a smart, contemporary hoodie that takes athleisure and adds some spice, thanks to clashing silk, denim and jersey fabrics.
As founder of label Post-Imperial, Nigerian-born, Texan-grown Niyi Okuboyejo knows a thing or two about international development and how it can positively impact the world. His pieces are designed in New York, created in Nigeria using a traditional Yoruban technique called Adire dying, then sent to the United States to be finished. His piece for the Beyond Native collection is decorated with traditional imagery and made of 100 per cent silk – the perfect travelling companion.
German-Vietnamese relations are strong, if Perret Schaad is anything to go by. Founded by Vietnamese Tutia Schaad and German Johanna Perret in 2009, the Berlin-based label specialises in industrial clothing and accessories that chime with the hipster scene of the city, while staying true to the heritage of its designers. The Beyond Native pouch comes in a slick, burgundy leather, accented with parachute silk and a rugged cord, symbolising the equipment used by Vietnamese fishermen.
The five-piece MINI Beyond Native collection will be available in limited numbers this autumn. Details on where to buy will be revealed later this year.
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