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Wardrobe: Carbon Footprint

Whitney Robinson

Throughout his 45-year reign as the arbiter of classic American style, Ralph Lauren has amassed one of the world’s finest collections of automobiles, including prize-winning Ferraris, pristine Bugattis, and three enviable McLarens. But for the designer, who has shown the collection only twice—in 2005 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and last year at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris—collecting cars is more than just a smart investment or a casual hobby.

"There is dimension and amazing design to cars—beyond speed and technology—that, as a designer, I integrate into all that I do," Lauren says. So it should come as no surprise that his inspiration for a new collection of men’s fashion accessories came from his Bedford, N.Y., garage and, in particular, from his trio of McLarens—two silver F1s and a papaya-orange LM special edition—and their famous carbon-fiber bodies.

Carbon fiber is not a material one normally associates with high fashion. Made of dense threads of woven carbon, which yield a black-and-gray, almost three-dimensional surface, the featherlight composite is stronger than steel and has always been better suited to the racetrack than to the runway. The carbon fiber used by Lauren is coated with polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which gives the material a high-gloss sheen and additional strength and durability. It makes for a sleek alternative to canvas or nylon in pieces such as Lauren’s briefcase ($2,500); the case’s glossy carbon-fiber front panel provides an appealing contrast with the Italian-calfskin trim and riveted palladium-plated hardware. A zippered folio ($1,950) and a billfold ($495) are trimmed with contrast-stitched calfskin; a carbon-fiber attaché ($4,500) includes a leather-and-palladium handle. A media case ($695) and a phone case ($295) are also part of the collection.

Though the leather accents on the pieces will age naturally, the durable carbon fiber will stand up to even the most rigorous day-to-day wear. You do not need to be a car buff to appreciate that.

Ralph Lauren, 888.475.7674, www.ralphlauren.com

This article was originally published in the November 2012 issue of Robb Report. Click here to read more articles from this issue.

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