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iStyle: Full-throttle fashion

The British brand Belstaff’s impressive new flagship store in London pays homage to  its biker roots, says Rebecca Gonsalves

Whether the thought of speeding around on two wheels fills you with exhilaration or dread, it’s hard to deny that in fashion terms there is something inherently cool about motorcycle detailing. Translated to denim and wool as well as tough-guy leather biker jackets, moto-inspired quilting, zips and hardware are touches that are perennially in fashion’s fast lane.

Since its relaunch for autumn/winter 2012, Belstaff stands with the big boys of British heritage – Burberry and Barbour – capitalising on its petrol-fuelled past to create a vision for the modern explorer – albeit one with deep pockets – funded by Swiss luxury group Labelux, Tommy Hilfiger and businessman Harry Slatkin.

Founded in Staffordshire in 1924, the brand became renowned for producing waterproof jackets for motorcyclists. Now headquartered in London and New York, the biker heritage remains but the offering is much more luxurious and fashion-led. Last night, Belstaff launched its new flagship on London’s New Bond Street with a cocktail party and motorbike parade. “I remember walking around London while we were closing the deal to buy Belstaff,” reminisces Slatkin, who is now CEO. “I walked Bond, New Bond and Sloane streets thinking of the most appropriate place to relaunch Belstaff and reinforce its British heritage. I stumbled past an enormous empty building and knew we had found Belstaff’s home.”

The brand’s heritage is celebrated in an exclusive range of vintage jackets from the Fifties to Seventies that have been carefully restored to their former glory. “So many of my friends, including fashion designers, collect vintage Belstaff pieces,” says Slatkin. “Ralph Lauren sells our vintage jackets, so I thought it was high time we actually offered the amazing vintage pieces.”

Belstaff’s original waxed cotton cloth is the focus of the current collection. “We have always embraced the waxed cotton,” says Slatkin. “We are a moto brand and everything we do relates back in some way to those roots – not everyone who shops Belstaff rides a bike or races a car, but that is the spirit of the brand.”