Madewell has teamed with Santa Barbara-based brand and retailer Ace Rivington on a denim and apparel capsule that celebrates the Central California region’s history in racing.
“Vintage speedsters and old-school denim” are the inspiration behind the collaboration, Ace Rivington founder Beau Lawrence told Rivet. The eight-piece men’s range is made up of jeans, T-shirts, sweatshirts, and accessories with colors and motifs inspired by classic car culture and the area’s legendary racetracks.
“Beau came up with a slot-car racing idea for the graphics and in-store experience,” said Mary Pierson, Madewell’s senior vice president of denim design. “We loved the nostalgia that the vintage speedsters graphics evoked, and wanted to tie those pieces back to the perfect pair of jeans.”
Lawrence’s personal connections to racing run deep, having spent a childhood behind the wheel of a slot car. “Back when I was a kid, and now with my kids, there is nothing quite like setting up the track and racing with everyone on the same level,” he said. Once a racetrack, the Santa Barbara Airport, where the Ace Rivington warehouse is located, was the location of “Rebel Without a Cause” star and motorsport enthusiast James Dean’s final race in his Porsche Speedster in 1955.
“Storytelling is at the foundation of what inspires me and Ace Rivington as a brand,” Lawrence said. “With Madewell as the leader in denim, I wanted to bring the history of Ace Rivington to create a meaningful collaboration that speaks to both of our worlds.”
Pierson said the partners’ “instant chemistry” stemmed from “common values” surrounding denim—namely, functionality, style and sustainability. “We decided that we wanted to create a collection that centered around denim with a great fit and wash,” she said. “We mixed vintage-inspired elements with modern technology to incorporate sustainability into each and every piece.”
To create the collection’s Slim Jean—a take on the classic straight fit with extra room in the seat and thigh—the brands used a combination of 55 percent Tencel lyocell, recycled cotton, organic cotton, and recycled stretch fibers. “We also used a sustainable washing technique that utilizes lasers, bubbles, and an ozone treatment,” Pierson said, citing water and chemical management as a production priority for the partners.
“The graphic tees and trucker hat are my favorites,” Lawrence added, pointing to the car-themed graphics emblazoned on each. “We had fun subtly nodding to both brands through the collection pieces to continue to bring the story to life.” For example, the Slim Jeans are an updated take on Madewell’s in-line men’s slim denim silhouette. Meanwhile, the T-shirts and sweatshirts, made using organic cotton and a low-impact dyeing process, update the J.Crew-owned brand’s best-selling Allday crewneck T-shirt and French terry sweatshirt.
The line, which retails for $45-$228, is available on Madewell’s e-commerce site and select men’s stores, including the Abbot Kinney and newly opened Silverlake locations in Los Angeles, Austin, Texas, and the brand’s New York flagship in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Pierson said that the collaboration is a part of Madewell’s effort to elevate and expand its men’s assortment, which launched in late 2018. The brand has taken a targeted approach to reaching male shoppers, creating a men’s vertical on its website and opening stores that stock only men’s apparel. “It’s been such a pleasure working with Beau on this collection, and as we continue to build out our men’s offerings, we’re open to the idea of more potential collaborations in the future,” Pierson said. Adding that “Nothing is off the table” for future endeavors between Ace Rivington and Madewell, Lawrence said that “a fun story and incredible products have brought excitement and energy” to this season’s launch.
Auto-themed apparel appears to be resonating across the apparel space. Los Angeles denim label Re/Done in July launched a partnership and capsule collection with Ford Motor Company, celebrating the debut of its electric F-150 Lightning truck. The team-up between the brand known for refurbishing reclaimed denim and the Detroit car-maker sought to promote “mindful consumption” while referencing old-school Americana. The collection of utility jumpsuits, upcycled Levi’s hot shorts, jeans, jackets and accessories featured red, white and blue patchwork and deadstock fabrics taken from classic T-shirts.
Earlier this month, culture and lifestyle platform Highsnobiety and German car manufacturer RUF Automobile unveiled their own collection of apparel and accessories. Graphic T-shirts, shorts, work pants and a varsity jacket incorporated the sportscar manufacturer’s signature forest green color way along with co-branding and imagery of its most celebrated builds. The collection’s standout was a TAG Heuer Carrera x Bamford x RUF x Highsnobiety watch, retailing for $7,785. Shoppers could also score accoutrements for their automobiles, including a key chain and rearview mirror air freshener.
Car-themed capsules have been dropping steadily for several seasons. Streetwear brand Kith and luxury car company BMW came together for an extensive collaboration that included 96 pieces of apparel, from knitwear to racing jackets, nylon track suits, suede bomber jackets and graphic hoodies and T-shirts in fall of 2020. Kith founder Ronnie Fieg even worked with the German automaker’s team on two one-of-a-kind cars, the 1989 BMW M3 E30 Ronnie Fieg Edition and the 2021 BMW M4 Design Study by Kith, which sported the label’s branding in an all-over monogram print across the car’s interior.
The 2020 fall season also saw Tommy Hilfiger and Mercedes-Benz launch a menswear capsule of outerwear, apparel and accessories, which included elements like climate-control finishes, seamed seals, rubberized tapes and Velcro closures, mirroring the automobiles’ performance features.