Fernando Alonso, a two-time Formula 1 World champion and this year’s Indy 500 rookie of the year, is also a clothing entrepreneur. The Spanish racing driver brought WWD up-to-speed Thursday about his latest business venture, his competition with Lewis Hamilton and the truth about his racing plans with McLaren.
WWD: Why did you decide to create Kimoa with a couple of friends?
Fernando Alonso: Initially, we thought of starting a restaurant or a cycling team. Then we thought maybe we could start a clothing brand that reflected a lifestyle we enjoyed, after all those years of traveling around the world. We love California, the beach, sunsets with friends. Even if you don’t surf or skateboard, you still like that lifestyle. After a year and a half of preparations, we’ve come out with Kimoa. Now we have T-shirts and the proper collection will come next year. This is not my only investment but it is one that I really like. But I plan to do more things for Kimoa because I really enjoy the values of Kimoa.
WWD: You recently shot a video surfing in Los Angeles for Kimoa’s site. Have you been surfing for a while?
F.A.: This was my first time on a surfboard. We had a teacher there and we filmed the whole thing. I really enjoyed surfing and it definitely won’t be the last time.
WWD: Do you have any designers you work with or any brands that you like to wear?
F.A.: Not really. With McLaren, Michael Kors is a sponsor so we dress in Michael Kors sometimes when we have an event and we have to be a little more elegant than Kimoa. But for normal life, I have Kimoa and a more relaxed style.
WWD: Will you leave McLaren if you’re not winning by September?
F.A.: Not exactly, my intention is to win Formula 1, a third world championship. My contract with McLaren finishes this year so I’m very open to any possibility for next year and I’m free to choose any possibility. The only way to remain at McLaren and renew the contract is if we change the situation and start winning. If we are not winning by the end of the year, it will be difficult that I will remain because I really want to fight for a title next year.
WWD: How fast do you drive when you’re competing in Formula 1?
F.A.: In a race? I think the fastest race track is Monza in Italy. We reach 370 kilometers [229 miles] per hour. Last weekend at the Indianapolis 500, my first race in America, we reached something like 390 kilometers per hour.
WWD: What was it like for you to be in front of an American crowd?
F.A.: It was fantastic. It definitely was the best experience and the highest moment of the last three years probably for me. The welcome from the fans, the Indy car and the American people was amazing. They knew the challenges that I went through and that it was my first Indy race and the biggest race in the world. There was a lot of attention for my whole two weeks there. I felt very proud that we were very competitive and were leading the race. Unfortunately, we didn’t finish due to engine problems [at lap 179 of 200]. I didn’t have any clear expectations. I concentrate more on the driving side and the challenge before me being a rookie again. I was surprised how the race was and how big the event was — 400,000 watching a live event is a very unique thing in the world. There is not a music concert or a sports event that can host 400,000 people.
WWD: How fast would you drive if you are just driving around off-hours in Switzerland?
F.A.: Normally, I don’t drive if I can. If other people are with me, I take the opportunity to sit in the backseat and relax a little bit. If I’m alone and have to drive, I obviously drive very carefully with a lot of respect. I have a [karting] circuit and museum in Spain where we teach road safety issues with kids. All the schools in Spain are going through our safety program.
WWD: In the U.S., the debate about professional athletes acting as role models has been fairly controversial. What is your view?
F.A.: I definitely feel the responsibility of being a role model for the kids….I’ve never been the kind of person to do crazy things. I have a very low-profile lifestyle. I’m close to my family and my closest friends. I do extra because I know there are many people watching.
WWD: Considering your mother was a department store cashier, did your family think it was interesting that you chose to start Kimoa?
F.A.: Obviously they support every idea that comes to me. I’m a very active person as well. I don’t want to sit down on the sofa in places. I keep my fitness training very high. I keep my mind active with new ideas and new concepts. Now with this new project Kimoa, it’s a very good way to invent things, discover new things and learn. Some of the values and things that you see after 20 years of racing and traveling in different countries, you can translate some of the ideas that you have experienced with different traditions and tastes. I think Kimoa will develop not only in clothes but maybe restaurants, city bikes and many other ideas that we have. We want to share on this lifestyle that we believe is happy and friendly.
WWD: How would you describe your rivalry with Lewis Hamilton?
F.A.: Normally in sports, you always have to be the best and fight with the best. Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton, Nico Rosberg — the big names that have been in Formula 1 for many years — are the guys you want to beat and they want to beat you. You develop this respect over the years because you know that you’re racing with the greatest, but at the same time, you fight hard on the track to beat everyone.
WWD: You have been considered to be an heir apparent to Michael Schumacher. Have you visited him since his skiing accident?
F.A.: No, he’s very closed to visits. But we try to always support him and pray for him because he has been our idol for many years. He has been our role model. I’ve been lucky to race with him for many years. But obviously now we all want to see him back in normal life.