Palm Angels x Haas is the latest striking case. From streetwear giants to Hamilton's forays, Formula One is getting cooler.
There are many ways to popularise a sport. There are those who have never had a problem, like football; there are those who, like Formula One, needed to relaunch themselves after the years when the Senna's and Schumacher's raged – and there was no need to invent a way to add spectacle. By the early 2000s, however, Formula One had lost popularity and did not appeal to the younger generation: it had become a monotonous sport, with few twists and turns, and more generally failed to meet the needs of an audience interested in more than just technical aspects.
In 2016, the Americans of Liberty Media seized the opportunity to relaunch the Formula One brand, ending Ecclestone's management – who had had the flair to make the sport marketable in every corner of the globe – and opening a new phase: one in which the word 'entertainment' would be at the forefront – after all, the Americans with their sense of show are colonising quite a bit of world sport, as European football demonstrates. And so: docu-series on Netflix, the much-appreciated Drive to Survive renewed season after season, a massive landing on social media, new markets – and even new Grands Prix, in ever more breathtaking settings – and a series of initiatives that, thanks above all to digital, help reduce the distance between drivers and fans.
All this has once again made Formula One a winning product, even among those age groups that, until a few years ago, openly snubbed it: in 2021, the number of fans between the ages of 16 and 35 increased by 77 per cent. To attract a young audience, fashion, one of the vectors that is most able to act as a pick in this sense, has also helped: it is true for Formula One, it is also true for all other sports – football in primis, which the world of fashion has taken to with a habit unthinkable only a few years ago.
From fashion to Formula One, and vice versa
In the years when Liberty Media was studying how to bring its latest acquisition up to date, there were fashion brands that paraded on the catwalk collections inspired by motorsport aesthetics: among them, Moschino in 2016 and Tommy Hilfiger in 2018, with the very successful collaboration with Gigi Hadid. These were all lessons that Formula One would learn quickly, choosing to collaborate with two brands that, once again, would attract the attention of younger people: in 2019 it was the turn of A Bathing Ape, in 2020 the collaboration with Anti Social Social Club. Then last year saw the debut of Ferrari's first ready-to-wear collection, which moved the boundaries of a motor brand even further.
Once the fuse has been lit, the phenomenon has been overwhelming: in recent years and months, fashion initiatives have involved the racing teams themselves. The latest announcement concerns the collaboration – to make its debut next year – between Palm Angels and the American team Haas: Francesco Ragazzi's brand will be the team's EntArtainment Curator, a definition that encompasses multiple meanings and certainly hints at a much broader perimeter than a simple partnership or sporadic collections: "The term curation is the right way to define my approach: many different things that magically come together by the simple fact of being next to each other," said Ragazzi. "The partnership with Haas F1 Team will allow us to explore both the material and the immaterial, creating a synergy based on optimism and dynamism."
Streetwear to rejuvenate a sport
It's a new dimension: fashion brands no longer decide to team up with a team just for sponsorship reasons, but try to initiate an artistic path that can exploit the potential of both realities. Football too, come to think of it, is following the same path – partnerships are moving away from the concept of simply providing formal wear, as in the case of Off-White/Milan, and increasingly widespread collaborations are pushing clubs to explore completely innovative solutions, as Palace did with Juventus, for example.
It is precisely streetwear brands that are giving a strong impetus to this process: before Palm Angels, names such as Palace and Rhude approached the world of Formula One. The former have collaborated with the Mercedes racing team, with a capsule inspired by the mechanics' workwear: jackets, waistcoats, reinforced trousers, but also sweatshirts, T-shirts and accessories. Rhude, on the other hand, joined forces with McLaren and looked directly at the aesthetics of what the drivers wear, thus producing leather jackets with macro-prints, as well as polo shirts and T-shirts with bold and colourful graphics that recall the drivers' style.
It is precisely the streetwear brands that are giving a very strong impulse to this process: before Palm Angels, names such as Palace and Rhude have approached the world of Formula One. The former collaborated with the Mercedes racing team, with a capsule inspired by the mechanics' workwear: jackets, waistcoats, reinforced trousers, but also sweatshirts, T-shirts and accessories. Rhude, on the other hand, joined forces with McLaren and looked directly at the aesthetics of what the drivers wear, thus producing leather jackets with macro-prints, as well as polo shirts and T-shirts with bold and colourful graphics that recall the world of racing.
F1 drivers are the new fashion stars
And then there are the stars, the drivers, public figures with millions of followers who develop a much larger following around them than racing fans. Among them is Lewis Hamilton, a Formula One legend but also a master of style – there is not a race weekend where we do not drool at seeing his two or three stellar outfits. This year, the British driver became Valentino's new ambassador, debuting for the Pink PP collection campaign. In 2018, Hamilton instead began collaborating with Tommy Hilfiger, creating a clothing line that has been revamped season after season.
Also diving into fashion is Pierre Gasly, who a few months ago signed a collection for AlphaTauri, Red Bull's fashion brand and title sponsor of the team for which the Frenchman races. A capsule consisting of four jumpers, crew-neck or turtleneck, made of merino wool. To sum up, here are the best fashion collaborations in Formula One.