On Tuesday the 6th of December, Paris’ IFA Business Management students visited Citroën, Europe’s largest car manufacturer, to see the latest luxury collaboration in Citroën’s auto-atelier: the new DS5 Ultra-Prestige. A hybrid of fashion and function, their latest DS model incorporated a heavy stylistic approach and was the perfect launch to engage IFA’s postgraduate students in Citroën’s design ethos.

Nearly a century old, the automotive company has built a reputation for its creativity and modernity, better known by their slogan‘CréativeTechnologie,’with a veteran design team at the helm, including Vincent Lobry, former accessories designer at Louis Vuitton. Lobry, Citroën’s Colors and Materials designer, and three other presenters explicated luxury brand management initiatives and communication strategies to an eager IFA team. Students were led through the entire design process from initial research and trend forecasting, to the creation of mood boards and colour palettes, to the final product.

Davinia Vitrac, a second year student in the BA (Honours) Fashion Design and Technology program was “was very impressed by the amount of time that Citroën had dedicated to making our visit an informative and worth while morning, and how incredibly well organized it was.”  The intensive morning provided students with exclusive insight into Citroën’s creative marketing and design process, many of which directly correlate with those in fashion.  For example, Prada shoes directly inspired the car’s black and gray colour gradient.

While fashion and luxury hybrids are hardly novel, the automotive industry as a whole has recently seen a greater emphasis on fashion collaborations too. For example, September’s CR-Z re-launch, a partnership by Intersection magazine and Honda, debuted a limited edition automobile designed by Ango-Japanese icon EleyKishimoto.  

“The parallels between fashion designand automotive design really interested me, because the concept and the process are the same, however the medium is different,” says IFA’s post-graduate student Yaseer Bawazeer. “Citroën aimed to imbue their product line with a greater sense of creativity and fashion for the future, which was evident in the DS models that we saw during our visit.” Particular attention to detail is obvious in the final product as well – from the DS logo embossed leather interior, to the chain-link black and gray leather seat designs that resemble a watchstrap, this luxury vehicle definitely exudes sartorial nuances.

Despite the many conceptual and aesthetic similarities between fashion design and luxury automotives, IFA’s postgraduate students also discovered the fundamental long-term disparities. Fashion design moves at a faster pace than car design: trends can be adopted quicker, products can be reproduced and filtered down to the public more timely, and the dependency on longevity and function has no real necessity in high fashion.  In fashion, aestheticism is enough to catalyze a consumer purchase, but beauty alone isn’t enough to sell luxury vehicles.

Vincent Lobry’s advice particularly resonated with Vitrac, whose background includes a role as Brand Manager in the Wine and Spirits division of LVMH’s New York office.  Though her shift towards fashion design seemed like a tremendous change, the parallels of designing for a luxury label helped Vitrac tremendously, particularly hearing it from a fellow former LVMH employee.  “Vincent shared with us asentiment that every designer must adhere to,” said the IFA student, “being a designer is so much more than having the ability to draw beautiful things, as an artist does; to be a designer you must be able to communicate beautiful things that can most importantly be produced.”

The DS5 hybrid’s sartorial debut even inspired the Citroën 2012 Creative Awards, a reverse design contest that challenged competitors to capture the model’s joie de vivreby designing two outfits (his and hers) suited to young professionals that imbue sleek aesthetic of the aerodynamic DS5. Now equipped with first-hand knowledge from Citroën’s own elite, many of IFA’s Business Management students have entered the style contest.  Winners were announced on the 27th of January, with three potential chances to win and with the first-place prize at €3000.