Why Fashion And Furniture Design Inspiration Could Appear In Your Next Car

PSFK chats with senior designers at Cadillac about why trade shows like ICFF are integral to their process.

There are certain brand names that evoke the idea of luxury in the popular mind. Well-executed marketing campaigns and effective brand positioning have a lot to do with this fact, but luxury is more than a name or an idea. The deliberate use of materials, meticulous craftsmanship, and ceremonious attention to detail are the foundation of any iconic label. After all, true luxury is in the goods.

As with anything, luxury goods are constantly evolving. The engineers and designers responsible are always looking for innovative ways to bring these products into being, and to forge meaningful connections with their consumers. In this way a kind of luxury ecosystem is born. Each new product, along with changes in the aesthetic sensibilities of modern consumers, adds a new tone to the conversation. So when a luxury brand like Cadillac sets out to design their next vehicle the first step is to listen.

PSFK recently caught up with Joe Lombardi and Shawn Campbell, two senior creative designers from Cadillac’s Color & Trim Studio, who were in New York City this week for NYCxDESIGN. We wanted to know how shows like Luxepack and ICFF inspire them and contribute to their work.

What are some of the overarching trends you’ve seen emerging out of this year’s design week?

Joe:  One thing we are seeing a lot of is texture and depth of pattern. A lot of layering, a lot of wood grain, a lot of authentic materials in furniture. In the past, we’ve seen a lot more product-inspired furniture, brighter colors, more plastic and synthetic materials. At this year’s shows there was a huge focus on authentic materials, and on the bending and twisting of materials—pushing it to its limit to give it more visual and tactile interest. We’ve also seen a trend emerging where each detail is purposeful. If there’s a fastener or a screw, it’s not decorative. There’s a big focus on everything having function.


Shawn:  One of the most prevalent trends I noticed, possibly drawing inspiration from the soles of Christian Louboutin shoes, was the pairing of traditional furniture with a bright/bold solid color pop on a secondary surface.  Some of the examples included a simple chair with bright orange legs, a wooden bookcase with a glowing green paint on the interior drawer surfaces, and a deck chair with a bright yellow top surface nearly hidden by the cushion. The trend of taking a traditional object and making it luxurious with a bold, high-gloss pop of color on a subtle location seemed to be everywhere.


What is the creative process that goes into designing a Cadillac vehicle?

Shawn:  The color and trim studio works closely with the designers in the Cadillac exterior and interior studios. Our focus with the interior design is to establish an emotional connection with luxury consumers so they’ll think, ‘This car speaks to me. This car is me.’ We design what will appeal to them, and one of the ways we do that is tapping into trends.

Joe:  A big part of luxury is the experience and the occasion of it. We are telling a story with all our designs. Everything is aesthetically beautiful and purposeful. One important way to communicate that is through craftsmanship.


Did you see anything interesting at ICFF, Wanted or the Museum of Modern Art that you want to incorporate into your next design?

Joe:  Yes, especially the proportions of materials—like the proportion of leather to wood. There was a lot of wood grain accented with leather in the luxury furniture. In the past, it has been the reverse of that: a lot of leather with wood accents.

We work with long lead times 3 to 5 years ahead, so it is important to know where the trends were in the past, where they’re going in the future, and how to interpret them for automotive.

Shawn: Craftsmanship trends evolve like trends in fashion and consumer electronics. Elements that we see in furniture or in sculptural pieces inspire people in a variety of different ways. Sometimes it’s just how leather and wood are intermingling, or how you’re adding a custom stitch. There’s also a trend toward natural materials instead of plastic.

Cadillac’s focus is on authentic materials – real wood, real leather and real metal and carbon fiber. When you sit in a Cadillac, you feel luxurious and comfortable.


What color stories did you see at design week, and how might they be reflected in upcoming designs?

Shawn: I saw a lot of straight-shade high-gloss paint, which I think is very interesting. It’s less about the metallic and more about the purity of color. Then I saw a lot of other colors that are really about the greening of shades. If it was traditionally a blue, they’re now adding a little bit of green so it’s more into that teal color space. That will make its way into some of our upcoming trend research.

What is the most interesting use of materials that you saw?

Joe:  I saw a lot of twisting and bending of wood as a structural element of the design, and the interweaving and interlocking of leathers. There was a lot of purposeful execution and combination of materials.


How do you translate what you saw into tangible designs for your cars?

Joe:  We are always looking for new ways to communicate luxury and craftsmanship to the customer. The details and subtleties we saw in fashion, furniture and other luxury items can serve as inspiration for interior stitching and piping detail.

Shawn: My goal is how to apply what we saw to exterior paint color —for instance, how could we use bright-colored paint as a pop accent.