How Alpinestars Went From the Racetrack to the Runway

a group of men wearing clothing
How Alpinestars Went From Racetrack to RunwayPhotos: Getty Images, courtesy of Balenciaga

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The influence of motorsports on menswear is long-running and undeniable. Pretty much from the moment we figured out how to race motorcycles and cars, we’ve been outfitting folks for the pursuit of speed. You can throw it all the way back to Belstaff and Barbour dressing Brits eager for a fast ride through the mud and sludge of the countryside. Or to Irving Schott creating an American icon in 1928 with the famed Schott Perfecto motorcycle jacket.

But nowadays, if you want to draw a direct line from the adrenaline junkies on the track to the runways of high fashion, you’re better off looking to a Formula 1 or MotoGP grand prix. That’s the natural habitat of the technical, protective gear that’s having an ever-larger influence on how guys are dressing to step onto the sidewalk instead of into to a supercar. Look around and you can’t help but notice the uptick in bold, color-blocked leather jackets, racing-inspired boots and sneakers, and anything else that telegraphs, “I like to go fast.”

Alpinestars knows more than a little about that world. The brand was founded in 1963 in northern Italy and got its start making boots for the then-burgeoning sport of motocross. Now, it outfits riders and drivers—professional and amateur alike—in some of the most advanced gear out there. “We've been around for 60 years, so we're not a brand that jumps on a thing as a trend,” explains Denise Focil, who heads up fashion collaborations for Alpinestars (not to mention being the wife of CEO Gabriele Mazzarolo). “This motorsports thing is our actual life. This is what we do.”

a black and yellow jacket
The "upcycled racer jacket" from Balenciaga’s spring ’24 collection.Courtesy of Balenciaga

But now, that mandate is expanding. Recognizing just how many fans are taking Alpinestars off the track and into everyday life, the company is working to create clothes that are built for the job at hand. Focil is the driving force behind Alpinestars Reserve, the arm of the company devoted to working with labels ranging from Anti-Social Social Club and Diesel to Heliot Emil and Balenciaga. The project started in earnest around two years ago, and already has seen the instantly recognizable star logo land on high-octane celebrities like Kim Kardashian, who wore the upcycled Alpinestars jacket from Balenciaga’s spring ‘24 collection all around Paris the day before the brand’s big fashion show.

For some other brands, that moment might been entirely novel—a move into a world heretofore unfamiliar. For Alpinestars, though, it’s just part of an evolution. Despite the focus on actual racing gear, the brand has long enjoyed a celebrity fan base. “We've had a lot of celebrities wear it on stage, like Justin Bieber,” says Focil. “We've had A-listers like Keanu Reeves, Christian Bale, Michael Jordan. Kind of all walks of life that have worn it, and it just felt like, ‘Okay, our brand is already being interpreted by very at the highest level of the fashion scene and translated into basically streetwear. So, why are we not showing it as such?’ So, this is kind of our next step.”

As for what the next part of that next step might be? Focil isn’t giving anything away quite yet. But the plan, she explains, is long term and well considered. “In the past two years, we've had a lot of fashion brands approach us,” she says. “And we’ve been very selective on who we work with because we wanted it to be somebody that could really interpret our product in the right way and in the right setting.”

a person in a leather jacket standing next to a motorcycle
A campaign image from the multi-part Alpinestars x Diesel collaboration.Courtesy of Alpinestars

And though she and the rest of the Alpinestars team recognize the uptick in motorsports apparel’s popularity in the last couple of years, thanks in no small part to the F1 boom in the United States, she doesn’t believe that this is a flash-in-the-pan sort of situation. “I've been here for 23 years, so I've seen lots of trends come and go,” she explains. “And the never-ending appeal of the motorsports thing, I've never seen it go. I've seen it start to explode more and become more mainstream—a little bit more well known in the past year or two, especially—but I have never seen it go away.”

It all comes down, Focil says, to the authenticity of the brand—it’s still family owned and Mazzarolo, the CEO, is the son of the founder—and the ongoing allure of wearing clothes that speak to your personality while going just a little bit further by giving you a sense of security, too. “It’s funny,” Focil says. “Because we actually make armor for people truly that need armor, but in this case, it's armor for just facing everyday life.”

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