Calling at couture: between the lines of fashion’s locomotive love affair

·4 min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

It’d be fair to say that fashion has seen some unlikely collaborations over the past month. Gucci pets was a joyful (if slightly strange) reveal; Ganni and Barbour announced their collection last week; whilst the Greggs X Primark collab remains a Gen Z sensation. The most recent of rogue recouplings? Kurt Geiger X TfL (yes, as in Transport for London).

Whether we’re melting on the tube or unable to board it due to strike action, TfL hasn’t fallen short of press this summer. Now, they’ve teamed up with high end footwear and accessories retailer Kurt Geiger for a tube-inspired collection, costing between £49 and £269.

Whilst Geiger may be the most recent fashion retailer to take from the tube, the collection is far from the first to be inspired by the railway. From railroading’s gilded golden age to pre-drinks en route to a wild night out; even your daily commuters have had fashion’s creative juices flowing for centuries.

On the right track...

On the precipice of the 19th century train travel boom, in 1837 one astute 16-year-old made the decision to hop on the ‘train-wagon’ and become a master trunk maker. Fourteen years later, the house of Louis Vuitton was born, becoming the world’s leading luggage makers with an everlasting legacy.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Fast forward two decades and a new conductor was blowing the whistle: Marc Jacobs, whose stunt as creative director at Vuitton remains legendary. His Louis Vuitton F/W 2012 show was a particular stand out - dog-eared as one of the best fashion moments from the past century.

Jacobs stunned audiences with a fully functioning steam engine that pulled into Paris’ Cour Carrée. Models were escorted by porters dressed in the uniforms of the Orient Express, carrying as many as three bags per model.

Though the clothes paid homage to Vuitton’s own history, a modern sensibility permeated in kaleidoscopic patches, towering platforms (the likes of which are having a major resurgence) and dresses layered over split seamed trousers.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

All aboard the ‘Diorient Express’

Surprisingly, Jacobs was not the first to use a steam train as a prop. And for many, the Vuitton Express served as a reminder for John Galliano’s FW 1998 couture show for Dior, later coined as the ‘Diorient Express’, the show saw supermodels packed onto a train that chugged its way into Paris’ Gare d’Austerlitz.

In 2016, the Dior Express started its engine once again. During a time where the house was between creative directors, for its 2017 Resort show the brand transported guests from London’s Victoria station all the way to Oxfordshire’s Blenheim Palace, courtesy of a luxury trip aboard the Dior Express.

Sound of the underground

Father of deconstructionist fashion and fellow train enthusiast Martin Margiela looked to the underground for his S/S RTW 1992 collection which was shown in an abandoned French metro station.

One of the elusive designers’ very first showcases used the backdrop of Saint-Martin (a long since abandoned pre-war station left deserted since the 1930s), lit up with over 1,600 beeswax candles.

 (Martin Margiela, SS92)
(Martin Margiela, SS92)

Jeremy Scott also tuned in to the sound of the underground (is there a better train x fashion moment than Girls Aloud?) by taking to the New York subway system for Moschino’s pre-fall 2020 show. According to Vogue, it took a year’s worth of planning to get the green signal for models to make their way through carriages.

With this, Scott did what he does best and applied a healthy dose of humour with enormous baseball caps and bum bags big enough for a long weekend away.

In January of this year, Balenciaga’s ‘Cities’ series also headed below street level, this time with TfL and a collection of ready-to-wear signatures inspired by tourist merch. Here models were snapped alongside commuters and looking just as unimpressed as those on their way to work.

 (Moschino pre-fall 2020)
(Moschino pre-fall 2020)

Full steam ahead

In recent months, TikTok star and lover of all things locomotive, Francis Bourgeois has been heralded as fashion’s new favourite front man. He also recently became the face of the second instalment in the Gucci x The North Face collab. The collection blends together the signature puffer silhouettes from The North Face with Gucci logos and eclectic style.

 (Getty Images for Gucci)
(Getty Images for Gucci)

Meanwhile, the Transport for London Museum has become an unlikely accessories hero, as love for the Lizzie Line continues with their Moquette tote bag, made to match the seats of the train, having its own viral moment in the sun.

Whether you’re more Moschino or ‘mind the gap’, North Face or Northern line fashion has always got a seat reserved on the train.