Sixty years old and counting...

Mon, 08/03/2009 - 06:30
Words by Gilly Turney

Gwyneth Paltrow and Stella McCartney own one, as did Audrey Hepburn and Bridget Bardot. From the glamour of film stars past to modern day divas the scooter has been a favourite mode of transport among the famous and not-so-famous ever since it hit the streets of post-war Italy.
Initially created as an economical means of transport in 1946, the Vespa soon became the most stylish way to travel through the city streets. Low on fuel consumption, nippy in town traffic, travelling on two wheels couldn’t be easier.

Sixty years on, the scooter is more popular than ever; as traffic jams clog up the cities and costly charges make driving a car an expensive business, it is a sensible, chic alternative. And with brands like Vespa, Piaggio, Lambretta and Gilera, the scooter-riding fraternity has become something of a cult. Enthusiasts claim owning a scooter is ‘life-changing’, with a new-found freedom, making the daily commute – and any journey – much more pleasurable and easier. It is stylish, too, with specialist clothing, accessories, and helmets on the market and this season is designer-led as the leather biker look hits the catwalk for autumn/winter.

Happy birthday Vespa

To celebrate its 60th birthday in 2006, Vespa launched two new ranges – a retro collection of two Vespa Vintage models and the limited edition Vespa GT60. Remaining faithful to its heritage whilst consistently appealing to new generations as the way to travel around town, Vespa’s design transcends changing fashions as a style staple with both these ranges.

Drawing inspiration from two existing popular Vespa designs, the LX and GTS, the Vespa Vintage range includes the Vespa LXV (available in 50cc and 125cc) and Vespa GTV (available in 125cc and 250cc). Both come in the classic grigio avio colour and pay homage to the era in which Vespa was born, with a rounded headlamp on the front wheel, a naked handlebar, and a separated double seat for driver and passenger – a necessity for re-creating romantic Roman Holiday moments!

With only 999 in the collection worldwide, the bespoke limited edition Vespa GT60 includes individually numbered plates, which will be engraved with the collector’s initials and comes with a limited edition certificate, an exclusive book charting Vespa’s history and a concept sketch of the Vespa GT60 by its Italian designer Marco Lambri. A must for the avid devotee.

Dressing your generation

Lambretta, too, is having something of a revival. This iconic brand has partnered up with legendary rock band, The Who, to launch a 60s inspired clothing range that will also feature some recreated items actually worn by the band at the time of the highly influential and stylish Mod era, including the original US army fishtail Parka, exactly as it appeared on the Quadrophenia album cover, Pete Townsend’s Union Flag Blazer, Keith Moon’s fine-gaugeknitwear and tees, and a collection of shirts (some with matching ties), as worn by all band members.

The collection will consist of parkas, jeans, tees and sweats, all carrying universally recognised ‘The Who’ graphics, designed to set the clothes apart frommoretraditional promotional band merchandise. There is also a stylish Lambretta watch and jewellery collection and the latest arrival is the ‘Brunori’ Lambretta watch, inspired by the legendary enduranceof racing driver Oreste Brunori. The watch face features a large retro dial reminiscent of a 1950s speedometer with a sleek rotating disc taking the place of the second hand. Colours for the faces come in silver, black or in the trademark Lambretta target logo.

The ultimate in style, a scooter is the perfect accessory, ensuring a seriously stylish arrival wherever you go – from the top of your Agv/Lazer/Roof/Davida/Momo designed crash helmet to the tip of the heavy nylon wind and waterproof leg cover. Clothing has always played an important part in scooter culture from the ubiquitous parka to highly fashionable jackets and accessories.

Stylish and safe

Scooter clothing specialists Tucano Urbano have moved it even more fashionably forward with the addition of two new sleek coat designs (a ‘Crombie’-style for men, double breasted, slightly flaring for women) showing how far biker wear has come.

Using a unique development in technical clothing, these woollen coats are 100% waterproof, have a thermal lining and CE-approved protection in arms, shoulders and back, but are so stylish they look nothing like a biker coat, so you can get off your scooter and walk straight into the board-room. At last, a lady’s bike coat that doesn’t make you look like a dispatch rider!
Their new ladies’ parka is slimline, too. Slightly more fitted and elegant than the man’s version, it looks good on or off a scooter and is a hot fashion item as parka shapes still dominate the urban fashion scene. Wear it over new-look wide-leg jeans or a narrow dress this season.

In fact the fashion world is inspired by bikers this autumn, as leather biker jackets return to the runway in glossy black calfskin or rich conker brown, with zips, buckles, belted and pocketed (at Burberry). They are tough and sophisticated worn with narrow jeans and knee-high leather boots at Gucci, or romantic over party wear at Giambattista Valli.

Scooters and fashion have always been inexorably linked and in keeping with current fashion trends for black and jewel colours, Vespa have just the scooter for biker chic with their inky Black Graphite Vespa. Paying homage to the head-to-toe blocks of colour seen on the autumn/winter cat-walks there is the Metallic.

This article was originally published in the print edition of Italy Magazine.