The flagships of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group – Aston Martin, Jaguar and Range Rover – are all about lifestyle, or so it’s said. Owning one of the products of these brands makes a statement about you, and the group’s management is eager to help its customers carry that statement through into every aspect of their lives.
It does this, as do other top car firms, by creating branded goods that transfer the image of the marque into clothing, jewelry, gadgets, executive toys and the rest. You name it – if it’s part of gracious living, you’ll be able to find it somewhere with a luxury car manufacturer’s name on it.
So the PAG brands aren’t unique in this. Mercedes, BMW, Porsche and the rest all have lifestyle accessories that cover everything from key rings to mountain bikes that can cost far more than most of us paid for our first car – in some cases, any car we’ve ever owned. PAG, however, is keen to use its collections as statements. The statements are to be design-led, styled by people who are – at least to those who follow the world of design gurus – well-known.
The new direction comes under the aegis of Wolfgang Reitzle, the autocratic boss of PAG, and is no doubt also influenced by J Mays, Ford’s design boss, who is interested in design in general, not just mere cars. The first collection to reflect this ethos is that of Aston Martin, styled by an ex-Gucci designer. Brands like Jaguar, which already has a wide range of accessories conceived in the days before PAG, will be given the ‘design’ treatment when the current licenses run out.
However, if the new Aston Martin range, officially known as “The Collection from Aston Martin” and described as “beauty with an edge” is a guide to how the manufacturer sees its average customers, there are some interesting people riding round in the products of Newport Pagnell.
They’re smart and elegant, so they wear sports shirts by Brioni of Italy at $180. They are fit, exercising in a Brioni T-shirt at $170 and hefting a pair of Aston Martin weights – five-pounders for her, a more manly ten for him – at $410. But they are not so health-conscious as to do without cigars, which they carry in an Aston Martin case ($425), cut with an Aston Martin cutter ($70 in stainless steel, $170 in silver), light with an Aston Martin lighter ($235) and stub out in an Aston Martin ashtray ($325).
On first impressions, all this tells you is that Aston Martin Collection customers are very rich and that they want to buy the kind of things that are to be found in any luxury manufacturer’s range of accessories. Except that strangely, after the Aston Martin badge, the second most-used decorative symbol in the collection is that of a pair of handcuffs. It’s available on a belt, a keychain and a pair of cufflinks. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but are Aston owners frustrated criminals, or are they likely to be tied up at work?
But some of the other Aston items are not so easy to find chez Mercedes or Porsche. How about shelling out $720 on a pair of black leather boxing shorts, or $615 on a pair of blue suede boxer shorts? It should be noted, by the way, that there is a difference: one is boxing shorts as in pugilism, and the other is boxer shorts as in underwear. And while you’re about it, why not consider a $4350 pair of night-vision binoculars, as popularized by Sir Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs? Really, if you came across someone wandering round in a pair of black leather shorts wearing night-vision equipment, would your first thought be “Ah, another typical Aston Martin owner?”
Aston says that the boxing shorts are unisex, but if you want a more conventional his-‘n-hers set, it seems that you will have to pop across town to check out the Jaguar dealer. At the Frankfurt auto show last fall, there was a foretaste of the design-led Jaguar accessories range for 2002 – a black leather bikini with British Racing Green stitching.
In a post-Nasser Ford and a post 9/11 world, do we need a pair of black leather underpants at $720? Or were those poor Aston and Jag owners merely surviving before?