GRR

Is a car interior more important than exterior?

02nd September 2021
erin_baker_headshot.jpg Erin Baker

The idea of car brands teaming up with other brands to create a “lifestyle partnership” to help sell the products isn’t new. Look at watches, for example, which is possibly the most obvious brand-synergy exercise the automotive industry has indulged in. Right now you’ve got Tag Heuer and Porsche, Breitling and Bentley, Hublot and Ferrari, McLaren and Richard Mille and Roger Dubuis and Lamborghini, to name a few, but time, as it were, will tell what survives.

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Or take home audio systems, which is a great extension of partnerships begun by car companies looking for desirable audio to extend the trim options list: who isn’t tempted to splash out on a Naim box after hearing it in their Bentayga, a state-of-the-art Bang and Olufsen system after hearing it rock their Fiesta Vignale?

Then there’s the clothing partnerships, which really are about selling a whole lifestyle – Musto and Land Rover, Barbour and, er, Land Rover, Mini and Paul Smith, McLaren and Hermes, Maserati and Ermenegildo Zegna.

Beyond clothing there’s food. Car brands are increasingly interested in having chefs as brand ambassadors – Audi and Theo Randall, Lexus and Tom Kerridge, Maserati and Francesco Mazzei – which is a great way to peg a car marque to a whole aesthetic culture, as long as it’s a culture people want to fall in love with. Italy is the obvious winner, but the UK has a rich history of luxury expertise, and even Germany promotes an idea of efficient engineering. I think, unfortunately, however, that Genesis will struggle to sell Korea as a luxury culture which consumers would want to buy into by spending a lot of money on a G80, and are wisely leaving it behind to concentrate on separate brand pillars.

But now we have something a little different, which points towards the new direction for the automotive industry: the world of interior design. With the car becoming increasingly the “Third Space” after office and home, and with electric powertrains forcing consumer choice down to trim levels, it makes sense that car brands start to forge partnerships with desirable interior-design companies.

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That’s why this year’s most brilliant partnership is that between Jeep and House of Hackney. There is no interiors brand more bang-on-trend right now than House of Hackney – it can do no wrong and is eating up media mentions like there’s no tomorrow. For the uninitiated, HoH is a husband-and-wife interior design enterprise, founded in Hackney, but now in London and New York, which believes in the power of pattern. Minimalism and reductionism are not words in their flowery, colour-filled dictionary. Wallpaper, carpets, fabrics – it’s all an explosion of clashing shapes, colours and imagery. They’re also hot on sustainability, low waste levels and supporting local businesses, which makes them a particularly popular brand with millennials and Gen-Zers right now.

Enter Jeep, looking to bump up its sustainability messaging and with it, sales of the hybrid Renegade 4xe. Brilliantly for Jeep, the House (as the founders like to call it) has just moved from London to Cornwall, and opened the doors of its first hotel, Hotel Trematonia, a showcase for the brand’s interior design flair. Jeep is providing Hackney-flavoured Renegade 4xes to the hotel for its visitors to day-trip in, complete with pastoral wraps covering the exterior, (although if it’s some sort of trip you’re after, just stare at the decor of the hotel).

Jeep gets to celebrate both the past (80 years of off-roading) and the future (electrified technology) via an explosion of fantastical bucolic wallpaper (because, why not?), and House of Hackney gets to shout about a decade in existence via the generous loan of Jeeps to visitors staying at its first Cornish House.

It all makes far more sense than the forlorn Wrangler that used to stand at the gates to Legoland marking that partnership, surrounded by discarded crisp packets of oblivious day-tripping families, and probably costs less.

This is the future: a focus on interiors, living well, smartly and sensitively, with products and brands that seems in some way a reflection of personal values. It makes the whole watch thing seem rather, well, hackneyed.

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