Brandon Maxwell is quite a big deal in the fashion world (he’s dressed Michelle Obama, Oprah and more), and yet he speaks humbly at New York Fashion Week about his Marfa, Texas roots, and how they’ve influenced his design sense and this latest runway show. In fact, he dedicated his spring 2019 line to his 81-year-old Texan grandmother, Louise Johnson. It makes sense then, that the designer teamed up with Kia to create a Telluride concept for his NYFW presentation—and that together the brands are donating a portion of the show’s proceeds to Marfa public schools.
The event, at a warehouse space at New York’s Classic Car Club off Pier 76, filled with old pick-ups—de-badged and spray-painted in Texas State Fair hues. The beds of the trucks backed into the runway, used as VIP seating for guests to better see Maxwell’s spring 2019 collection.
Kurt Kahl—Senior Design Manager at Kia—is the person behind not only the Telluride, but, previously, the Kia GT4 Stinger Concept and the Ford GT40 Concept, too. When we spoke with him about the forthcoming Telluride (set for release in summer 2020), he made his pride plain. And, like Maxwell, talked about his own roots. “When I was a kid my uncle Steve drove a ’78 Porsche 911 SC, and I just thought he was the coolest dude in my life,” Kahl tells us. “He’d come visit my grandma’s house in this Porsche, just him and his dog, and the car was this gorgeous oak-green metallic.”
Eyeballing the eight-passenger Telluride, Kahl tells us “Somewhere that green Porsche is deep in my DNA.” And while you might not think it obvious to connect the form of the Telluride to a 1970s Porsche 911, he says that fewer creases and more flowing bodysides are coming back, and that what they wanted in the Telluride was “a kind of honesty.” Drawing more comparisons from other models, he explains further, “Those Ford Broncos and Defenders, we see them all the time around us in our Southern California studio. They’re cool because they’re uncomplicated and that muscularity is what we wanted.”
As for the paint on the Telluride, Kahl says there’s more to this color than it might seem. The concept (first shown in 2016) wears a gold-flecked green, like the Maxwell 4×4. “It’s this super-complex, rich hue that goes almost to black in some light,” he says. The car is designed to straddle toughness and luxury, so the gold-green is ideal: the green echoing the natural environment, and the gold offering a glam sheen.
Maxwell perfectly understands that balance of ruggedness and sophistication—and it’s evident in his design touches on the car. The leather straps used as tie-downs for the hood and roof-rack, as well as the buckle hardware, echo materials you’d see on a Texas ranch. The “wood”-trimmed roof-rack, rough-hewn rope and leather-wrapped sideview mirrors might not make it to production, but they convey the vibe perfectly.
More plausibility aside, one can’t help but enjoy the lucite hat box and Zero Haliburton luggage strapped on the roof. This is just more of Maxwell’s Texan glamour—and Kia partnered with the designer to splash out, not to show restraint. Would the end product have a hood snorkel embedded with sparkles? Doubtful. But just as Maxwell surely goes through several design tweaks, Kia will weigh how or if they can learn from Telluride’s exposure to the bright lights of Fashion Week.
Kahl does tell us that the Telluride will have a green paint option—it’s pretty clear that it will largely look like the concept. “We tend not to do concepts just for an exercise,” he explains, “And when you can influence a production car with a concept car, that’s perfect. That’s what we strive to do.”
Images courtesy of Kia