British car manufacturer Lotus joined forces with one of Savile Row’s most established tailors Norton & Sons to create a bespoke technical driving jacket. It is arguably the world’s most exclusive driving garment. The jacket is only available to customers of the Lotus Evija, the world’s first British all-electric hypercar, who will spend in the region of £2 million to have the chance to buy this menswear.
Founded in 1821, the tailor has a long tradition of making lightweight clothing for sporting pursuits. The Norton & Sons crafts people have dressed royalty and movie stars – King George V and Cary Grant were among its most loyal customers. This is not the first time when Lotus and Norton & Sons meet. Most of James Bond’s suits were almost always cut to perfection by the traditional tailors of this this famed corner of Mayfair, London.
While the Lotus Esprit S1 has to be the most exciting of 007’s motor cars with Roger Moore racing Giorgetto Giugiaro’s boldly angular, extreme wedge-shaped fiberglass machine in the memorable car chase from Sardinia’s dry land and into the Mediterranean sea in “The Spy Who Loved Me”.
This time two British icons of their respective industries have combined their technical skills in real life to produce an all-new handcrafted performance-oriented driving jacket for enthusiasts.
Travel with Style has spoken to Norton & Sons Design Director Patrick Grant, best known as a judge on hit BBC TV Show The Great British Sewing Bee about a unique clothing line and challenges behind this project.
”The most expensive is almost certainly this one because you need to pay over £2m for an Evija before you can have one.
What was the inspiration behind your idea? How long did it take you complete the project (from preliminary discussions to the final presentation?
Lotus make the world’s finest sports cars and Norton & Sons make the world’s finest handmade men’s clothes. The original idea was simple – bring together the best of both brands to create the most exclusive driving jacket, for owners of the Lotus Evija, a jacket crafted to enhance the experience of driving the worlds most advanced electric hypercar.
We began discussing the project in early 2020, but for obvious reasons it didn’t move as fast as we had planned. It wasn’t until July 2020 that I was able to visit the Lotus factory, to meet with Russell Carr and see the Evija and the materials being used to build it. I got to spend time in the Team Lotus archive, looking at the cars and the clothes of the many Formula 1 championship winning Lotus teams and drivers of the past.
The final design took inspiration from a 1970s drivers jacket worn by Emerson Fittipaldi, as well as details from past Lotus cars (like the iconic triple tail lights) and of course from the iconic tail lights of the Evija. From that point designing the jacket and selecting the materials happened quickly, but once again Covid delayed the launch. We launched the jacket at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July 2021, with Lord March and Jenson Button being the first recipients.
Based on what I see, collaborations are becoming more and more common for luxury brands. What are the main advantages for the brands and clients?
Today the world of luxury is full of brands and products you can pick on every major shopping street and at every major airport. Real luxury is about unique experiences and unique stories, about something scarce or rare, and that’s what you get when you bring together two brands like Norton & Sons and Lotus. For the Lotus customer it is about experiencing the ultimate luxury of having clothes made by hand by the world’s finest master craftsmen. For the Norton & Sons customer it is about having the chance to drive the ultimate sports car and meet the people behind designing and making it.
How long does it take to make the jacket? Can you briefly run me through the whole process?
Making a Norton & Sons bespoke Evija driver’s jacket starts with ordering a Lotus Evija. You will then be invited to come to our shop on Savile Row where our head cutter will take a series of measurements from which he will hand cut an individual pattern. We will then order the required amount of fabric. The fabric is then hand-cut and hand-sewn in our workrooms before being delivered to the customer. The whole process is likely to take between six and ten weeks.
How many people are in your team?
Our team is made up of around 20 people, all specialists in one small part of the process, from pattern cutting and fitting to tailoring and hand-finishing.
What was the most complicated and expensive driving jacket you ever made? (I am assuming challenges depends on the pattern of the material or its structure)
The most expensive is almost certainly this one because you need to pay over £2m for an Evija before you can have one. The most complicated usually involves bespoke fabrics, like unique checks or jacquards, simply adding details to jackets is fairly straightforward. Norton & Sons have been hand making clothes for drivers since motor cars were invented. We have made for racing drivers, aerospace pioneers and the owner of one of the world’s most famous sports car brands. But we never discuss our clients or the cost of individual commissions.
Can clients be involved in the design or decisions about style of the jacket?
The Norton & Sons Evija drivers jacket was designed by me and Russell Carr, the head designer at Lotus. That particular jacket is made in a black with red detailing made in a lightweight technical wool and nylon fabric from Loro Piana. But if a clients wants a different jacket we can of course make that for them, with any detail they wish, as long as it’s possible to make it.
Any funny stories or unusual requests from the clients?
We go out of our way to make life easy for our clients so we’ve done fittings everywhere from private clubs to fashion ateliers, to hunting lodges and beach houses. We’ve made clothes from precious pieces of fabrics rescued from curtains from country houses, to old silk scarves. If it can be done we are happy to try and make it happen.
Do you know the total number of jackets you have designed up today?
We’ve been in business for over 200 years, we’ve made a lot of jackets.
Who are your clients? Are they all Millennials and Gen Z or older people?
We are fortunate to have a fascinating group of clients, all of them incredibly successful in their chosen fields. We have entrepreneurs, CEOs, bankers, lawyers, musicians, artists, actors, fashion designers. They are of all ages, the youngest would be early twenties, the oldest in his eighties. Most are over 30. It’s a pleasure to get to know them and to help them build great wardrobes of clothes.