Belstaff

Katharine K. Zarrella
Gregory Harris

Martin Cooper doesn't ride motorcycles, but he understands the appeal. "The fantasy is more powerful and sinful as an observer," he explains. As the newly appointed chief creative officer of British biker label Belstaff, Cooper brings said fantasy to the brand's growing customer base, whom he describes as the "Range Rover royal set," with contemporary wares that fuse the house's rich heritage of sumptuous materials (think leather, python, and crocodile) with a sense of adventure.

Though Belstaff, which was founded in 1924, has kept a lower profile the past few decades, it's never lost its cachet—Che Guevara wore a Belstaff racing jacket on trips across South America, and George Clooney has favored the jackets off set. Intrigued by its backstory, current CEO Harry Slatkin, along with Labelux Group and Tommy Hilfiger, bought Belstaff in 2011 and hired Cooper to reposition it as a modern luxury brand. To this end, he's updated its aesthetic to critical acclaim and fostered a retail expansion. (In addition to new stores in New York, Milan, and Munich, Belstaff will open a flagship on London's New Bond Street this summer.)

Cooper, however, is no stranger to English heritage labels. Before taking the helm at Belstaff, he served as the vice president and design director at Burberry for 16 years. "I was a fan first," says Cooper, of Belstaff. "It's an incredible honor for me to tell the story of the brand in a way that's never been told before."

For Spring, Cooper pulled inspiration from vintage travel cases and Amelia Earhart. "Seventy-five years ago, travel was all about luxury," he explains. He infuses this luxe feel into his women's range, for which he placed a focus on masculine and feminine duality. The result is a largely neutral collection, with looks that are fluid and feminine, yet accents such as leather buckles around the waists and necks of tailored, paneled jackets recall the brand's dangerous edge.

Belfstaff's men's range, as well as his new men's sportswear line, Goodwood Sports & Racing Collection by Belstaff, has a more literal archival look, embracing the brand's rugged, daring spirit. But while Cooper never forgets the house's heritage, he assures that he's not beholden to it, because he believes that individuality is all part of the fantasy. "There is no more powerful force in existence than when one decides to be themself. This is life's adventure, and one of the cornerstones of the Belstaff brand—to dare to be yourself."

Current Issue
December 2014

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