"We love our heritage," said Belstaff
's Martin Cooper, "but I never want to be beholden to it." Off come the shackles, in rushes the fresh air. Belstaff, which has been cranking out motorcycling gear for the better part of a century, has, since its revival in 2011, navigated a course between its history and the demands of its new status as a high-fashion house. With the pre-fall collection, the label's first for this important sales season, it moved forward yet again. The line, Cooper said, was, "more than anything, exploring an urban feeling for the brand." The first section he dubbed city dressing, and while the racing details remained—in the form of padded leather elbow patches on a double-woven cotton car coat—the pieces here all felt more like part of a real woman's wardrobe. Leather motorcycle pants gave the old vroom-vroom feel, but they matched up with the soft, slinky silk tops Cooper uses for masculine/feminine balance. A country-mouse section was "equestrian meets biker," in the words of the designer, with high quilted-leather riding boots and quilted jackets. Fox fur vests and a gorgeous navy shearling brought us back to the city. Despite the line's skyscraper prices, details like lamination on knits and oversized zippers gave the pieces a hit of low-key cool. ("Hardware is our jewelry," Cooper explained.)
As an added bonus, loosening heritage's hold on the whole gave Cooper a chance to embrace it more strongly in parts. Since relaunching the brand, he's re-created the classic Trialmaster jacket in leathers and skins, but never in its original waxed cotton. Here it was back in action, only slightly nipped and tucked.