Keep the wheels, lose the grit. There's a tagline for the re-revved Belstaff
. Under Martin Cooper's creative direction, the English label has kept a tight but not heavy-handed grip on its motocross heritage the last couple of seasons. Fashion lives in the specifics, and Cooper has skillfully mined the details of a few key Belstaff pieces—chief among them, the Trialmaster jacket—and spun them into the foundations of wide-ranging collections for both men and women. But while the Belstaff renaissance feels like a natural fit in menswear, it's not as straightforward a challenge on the women's side. Cooper's achievement here has been to feminize the look without sacrificing the style. It's a fine line to walk, and so far, the designer has kept the balance nicely. "I'm exploring a softer, more romantic side," he said backstage after today's show. Softer, literally, were pleated silk shirtdresses with the subtle but tough detail of reinforced elbows on the sleeves. Cooper even teased romance out of a jacquard jumpsuit in military green; it took a full turn around the track—that is, runway—before you noticed that a pit-crew roadie would wear one nearly the same. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a house built on a jacket, outerwear was a standout, from striped linen jackets inspired by vintage travel cases to an all-out luxe version of Belstaff's original Speedmaster in cardamom-colored perforated plonge.
Despite the variety Cooper has eked from his source material, his remains a very specific offering at its core. His challenge will be to entice his customers to pay high-luxury prices for moto-finery they don't already know they want. Belstaff is long on heritage but short on decades of desire. But the designer's doing a bang-up job of sparking that lust, and he has the added advantage of crusading new backers behind him. As of today, the label's enormous Madison Avenue flagship is open and beckoning; its Craig McDean-shot ads are appearing far and wide. The new keepers of the Belstaff flame are basking in its glow.