LONDON — Michael Kors and McLaren Honda are hoping to create a halo of modern masculinity around both brands through a long-term partnership that was announced at McLaren’s Knightsbridge showroom this week.
Michael Kors will become the official lifestyle partner of the world championship McLaren-Honda Formula 1 team, as the U.S. brand seeks to build its men’s business and attract more European customers.
Kors branding will feature prominently on both the driver overalls and the McLaren-Honda MP4-31 car. The designer has also created a limited-edition men’s black leather jacket with both brands’ logos and a plaque with each item’s unique production number.
The 50 specially produced items will be sold exclusively on the men’s floor of the new Michael Kors London flagship on Regent Street.
“We think Formula 1 is the most exciting sport in the world. It also makes one of the sexiest road cars in the world,” said John D. Idol, chairman and chief executive officer of Michael Kors during a news conference on Wednesday.
He was referring to the high-performance cars 12C, 650S and McLaren P1, which are made by McLaren Automotive, part of the McLaren Technology Group.
“Let’s face it, our customers all want to be Formula 1 drivers, but not all of them can. But it’s sexy to be associated with that,” said Idol, who was flanked by two shining sportsmen, the world champions Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.
McLaren-Honda is taking part in the 2016 FIA Formula 1 World Championship with Alonso and Button. They drive the McLaren-Honda MP4-31.
The designer, who’s also in London to celebrate the opening of his flagship store on Regent Street, said the relationship made sense because he designs for a man on the go who “crosses time zones and changes climates” and dresses in luxury that feels useful.
The Formula 1 audience is a new one for Michael Kors, and an opportunity to speak to a European customer, the company said.
Indeed, Formula 1 racing is one of Europe’s most popular sports, but has struggled to gain a strong foothold in the U.S. The market has consistently proven difficult due to financial and logistical challenges, and the fact that the U.S. is dense with other, more entrenched competitive sports.
Ron Dennis, executive chairman and ceo of McLaren Group, described the relationship as long-term. “We think in five-year bites — and lots of them. This relationship is very open-ended, and we’re going to be careful at first, but then things will unfold over the next few years. There is money involved, but that is secondary.”
He said the absolute goal for McLaren-Honda is recognition worldwide. “We want column inches, we want to get into fashion magazines,” he said, adding the Kors and McLaren customer demographic was similar, and the partners had the common object of globalizing their products.
The McLaren Technology Group, meanwhile, is larger than motor sport: It supplies electronic systems to the entire Formula 1, Indycar and NASCAR grids and works with a variety of high-tech industries.
Dennis added: “McLaren has raced in Formula 1 all over the world for the past 50 years and Michael Kors is also an international company. As we now march forward together, we’ll both become stronger still.”