Is the automotive world home to what Tom Wolfe famously described as a "kandy-kolored tangerine-flake" aesthetic finally ready for a matte-finish car? The industry shifted gears briefly in Milan last week when Mercedes-Benz and Giorgio Armani two of the most powerful brands in their respective industries teamed up to design the limited-edition, four-seat CLK.
The sand-colored roadster with a luggage-leather interior was presented alongside Armani's spring 2004 fashion collection. Skeptics at the press conference kicked the funky green-rubber tires and compared notes on other fashion designers Bill Blass, Pierre Cardin, Valentino who have been down this road before. But there's no doubt this limited-edition model is drop-dead gorgeous, and more couture than off-the-rack. (Fewer than 150 will be available by special order, at a price that hasn't been announced; stock CLKs sell for around $58,000.)
Although Armani says he is "looking forward to designing an entire car" in the future, a Mercedes spokesperson said that would be unlikely. They both draw on our culture's bottomless appetite for new trends and status symbols, but the similarities between fashion and industrial design stop there. After all, how flattering would a dress sketched by a carmaker be?