In the digital age of infinite possibility, countless examples show art as an immersive experience, as design, car, and fashion brand collaborations converge to redefine luxury. Mercedes-Benz’s three-pointed star logo is synonymous with traditional luxury and stays atop of the list as an easily recognizable brand. In May, the German automaker revealed how it will set the stage for its next canvas —the customizable digital artwork screens inside its cars. “Like Lagerfeld reinvented Chanel, it’s about beauty,” said Gorden Wagener, head of Mercedes-Benz design speaking from Nice, France.
Wagener kicked off the day from an open-air stage for the symposium “Design Essentials IV: The Art of Creating Desire.” The theme of beauty is easily conveyed in the dreamy backdrop of the French Riviera. Mercedes invited journalists and European fashion executives to unveil its vision for art and car collaborations at one of the company’s design studios, a concave modern building where natural light spills through the windows. Mercedes also has design centers in Carlsbad, California and Shanghai.
Mercedes showed the eponymous concept Project Maybach created by Virgil Abloh and the production car also made by Abloh, the Limited Edition Maybach-Mercedes S580. Abloh’s wild two-tone beige and black sedan will be made into 150 units, a bittersweet and powerful realization of the regal Mercedes Maybach S-Class that Abloh developed with Mercedes designers, and was able to drive near the end of his life. The rugged electric concept first debuted at the Rubell Museum in December, days after Abloh’s death. Pieces from the accompanying capsule collection with OFF-WHITE were displayed adjacent to the cars in homage to the partnership.
Over the course of the day, car designers and executives shared a suite of ideas that could ultimately connect the dots on the next generation of tech features Mercedes will build to create desire. “It should be about ease, excitement, and a little bit of love,” said Bettina Fetzer, Vice President of Communications & Marketing at Mercedes-Benz AG. Mercedes foresees a future where in-car art experiences are powered by NFTs, hyphenated by high-touch high profile physical collaborations.
To underscore its commitment to luxury and emerging tech, Mercedes announced that it has joined the Aura Blockchain Consortium as a founding member, along with LVMH, Prada Group, Cartier, the OTB Group, and a division of Richemont. The consortium, founded a year ago, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a secure approach to blockchain technology for digital luxury products. One area it focuses on is the creation of a certificate of authenticity around NFTs that the participating brands will release as they explore this expanding area of art and commerce.
Mercedes constructed a gallery space to illustrate how NFTs would be projected into its vehicles. Digital artworks were displayed on large rectangular screens. The works were made by in-house artists on the design team, invoking psychedelic motifs, cars swirling and twirling, and the star logo inverted into pools of colorful plasma. I demonstrated the application of these works on a vehicle’s expansive interior screen.
Another element of the presentation was the introduction of “Haute Voiture,” a clever name that encompasses the tony Maybach marque’s approach to customization. A Maybach was shown using nontraditional fabrics such as fake fur, multi-colored weave, offset by rose gold accents and dozens of bejeweled parts. The ultra-luxe brand also showed hints of an accompanying accessories line, including items that matched the car’s fabric swatches from handbags to couture dresses.
The last time Mercedes gathered a group to present its design direction was in 2019 when it focused on its transformation to blend new UX tech and electrification. The brand has been busy doubling down on its technical infusion in vehicles such as the all-electric EQS, as its products contain large dynamic screens and increasing advanced in-car tech. Mercedes UX designers continue to refine its floating screens in harmony with the driving experience.
To cap off the day of presentations, Wagener unveiled a dramatic all-electric sports car concept, the Vision AMG at the glamourous new property, the Maybourne Riviera, overlooking Monaco and the cerulean sea. The sports coupe has inventive design touches such as three-pointed, star-shaped headlamps. Wagener pointed out that its sculpted exterior form harkens back to classic sports cars of the 1960s, albeit with a futuristic, electrified twist. Since the glamorous coach building era of the 1920s, cars have been called rolling sculptures on wheels, a legacy that includes many classic Mercedes models that continue to win modern-day awards. In the future, Mercedes will find new ways to push this legacy forward, engaging with works on the small screen throughout the cabin spaces. It’s a statement that underscores a point: beauty always starts from within.