Michael Williams

How good design can make trains sexy


March 3, 2012 The Independent

In a world dominated by anoraks, bobble hats, enamel badges and vacuum flasks, railways and fashion are not obvious partners. Most of us boys gave up finding trains sexy when we discovered girls. And most girls – of any age – have never found trains sexy at all.

 

So there was quite a flutter – and not just among the gricers at the end of Platform One – when with a whistle and a cloud of steam a blue Orient Express-style train pulled into the courtyard of the Paris Louvre yesterday to launch Marc Jacobs’s new collection for Louis Vuitton. “We just imagined this romantic notion,” said Jacobs. “It’s the idea of the trip.”

 

It’s not the first time a link has been made between the catwalk and railway. The Cuban designer Osmany Lafitta unveiled his 2007 summer collection on Platform Two of Prague’s art nouveau station, and a curtain raiser for London Fashion Week was staged on a Central Line train between Marble Arch and Tottenham Court Road.

 

Nor must we overlook Sir Richard Branson, boss of Virgin Trains, Britain’s most profitable long-distance train franchise, who has always had a keen eye for an attractive model, preferably scantily clad. Not long ago he appeared in photographs in the world’s press kite-surfing with a nude model on his private Necker Island in the Caribbean. “What can you say,” he told the Mail on Sunday, “if you are asked to pose with a naked lady?”

 

Although it may not be apparent to passengers packed in like sardines, even some of the trains we use everyday are fashion icons. The Eurostar interiors were created by cult designer Philippe Starck, and the “High Speed Trains”  [subs, this is correct title] which ply from London to the Midlands and the West Country are the work of revered British designer Kenneth Grange, who is famous for a host of brilliant designs from the Instamatic camera to London’s black cabs.

 

As for Marc Jacobs’s replica train, which apparently took months to create, it was hardly realistic. But who cares? Jacobs is right to identify that train travel has grown up and re-acquired the glamour it once had in the 1920s and 1930s.

 

Train travel is booming once again, whether you’re racing at 225mph across Europe or relaxing aboard the gorgeous art deco carriages of the preserved Orient Express on a romantic assignation with your lover to Venice. For the first time since Marc Jacobs’s Flapper fashion era, trains are sexy again.

 

Even for girls.

 

Michael Williams latest book ‘On the Slow Train Again’ has just been published by Arrow Books


March 3, 2012 The Independent

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