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Lady Driver: Porsche’s Trickle-Down Opulence
From ballpoint pens to leather purses, Porsche Design channels the innovation of their cars into a line of accessories
An Evening of Style with Porsche Design and Vogue
The Porsche Design store’s July 11th re-opening soiree may have been lacking in flashy German cars, but there was no shortage of eye candy ripe for the gawking (namely Patrick Dempsey, looking shorter and even more beautiful in person). But forget McDreamy. The Beverly Hills storefront was bursting with classic watches, colorful sunglasses, and soft leather purses, some of which were on displayed via ice sculpture (eerily suspended within the ice), but all of which were produced by one of the most well-known companies in the world.
Upon entering, guests were greeted by a warm white glow, which was emanating from the sunglasses display that took up an entire center wall. Store representatives in Cat Woman-tight leather dresses flinched as party-goers put down their champagne to try on pairs of P’8478 aviators, each outfitted with revolutionary frames that enable you change the lenses (I prefer the neon yellow ones myself). The name “Porsche” was stamped on everything, even the ballpoint pens that lay regally in display cases, like titanium Crown Jewels. But what was the connection between these everyday items and the luxury cars I’d heard so much about?
I took a tour of the store with artist and designer Justin Pauly, who is planning to open a Porsche Design store in Chicago. He didn’t talk about the aesthetics of the products (whether the leather jackets might clash with a Porsche’s leather interior, if the thin-soled shoes made it easier to feel the pedals). I assumed that the Porsche-stamped contents of the store were meant to be expensive car accessories, but Justin told me a different story.
Porsche Design started in 1972, when Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, car designer and heir to the luxury car empire, engineered the world’s first black watch. Previously, watches were seen as jewelry, made of silver or gold. Ferdinand wanted to make a time piece that that had no other purpose but to tell time in the simplest, most efficient way, so he crafted a watch with a dark face and white hands; no glitz, no glitter, just visible. Practical but elegant, the watch became the model for the future of Porsche Design. It is still the company’s highest selling product.
The more Pauly spoke, the more impassioned he became; it was like a museum tour spiked with espresso. He walked me over to the pens on display, pointing at one in particular. “This pen is made from one whole piece of titanium,” he said. “The engineers had to invent a robot that could make the pen before they could actually make the pen. It’s impossible for a human to do it with the right precision.”
In fact, engineers seemed responsible for most of the innovation happening at Porsche Design: shoes with a chassis similar to a car’s that can absorb the pressure of your entire body weight; cologne bottles that have buttons on the sides instead of on top; a scarf made from proteins derived from milk. The purses I had written off as plain have hidden magnets in the clasps and handles that take them from handbag to shoulder-bag without looking like a K-Mart disaster. These weren’t just clothes and accessories—these were inventions.
“Those purses are handmade, and take eight days to make,” Justin said. (I asked Google, and it takes less time to assemble an actual Porsche.) “Just like the leather interiors of the cars, you can get these purses in any color you want.” And that’s when it clicked: the products of Porsche Design are Porsche-like because they embody the same caliber of luxury as the company’s cars.
Right above the store on Rodeo Drive, Porsche has an office where you can design your dream mobile, any color, any leather, any model. The robots that will assemble your candy apple red Spyder have been developed by the world’s most brilliant, passionate engineers. The factory’s employees are specialists: the man tasked with painting your custom-crafted baby had to go through three years of training.
You will find the same treatment downstairs in the Porsche Design store. A robot will chisel a pen out of titanium for you. A specially trained leather artist will stitch together your very own sequined-snakeskin purse. You can change the lenses in your sunglasses and ooze with the innovation of it all because, at the end of the day, you deserve to drive your luxury and wear it, too.
Christina Wolfgram is a blogger who, like most Angelenos, pretty much lives in her car (a 2011 Ford Fiesta. ¡Ole!) Her mission? To investigate the California car-mosphere. Visit CityThink every other week to experience L.A. from this Lady Driver’s perspective, and follow her adventures on Twitter @TheCWolf.