Sole of the UX: Crossover Cross-branding at Its Worst?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
sole of the ux crossover cross branding at its worst

Lexus unveiled a collaboration with Nike and designer John Elliot at New York Fashion Week, celebrating both human and automotive footwear. The finished piece, titled “Sole of the UX,” is scheduled to make additional appearances across the country later this year, touring with a matching pair of Nike AF1 shoes.

After conducting a bit of research, Elliott appears to be a fashion designer specializing in the least imaginative streetwear ever to enter mass production. His beige drawstring pants, which run about $200 USD, are probably the most creative item in his entire catalog. The brunt of his collection involves plain shirts and lots of faded denim.

While not hideous by any means, it’s devoid of any unique style. The articles of clothing Elliot specializes in are the kind of pieces you’d wear while running errands or relaxing at home. They just cost a lot more. However, as Elliot openly describes his take on fashion as intentionally “basic,” there’s little reason to get ultra salty over how so much of his fashion line resembles a high-quality burlap sack. Instead, let’s focus our collective ire on Lexus.

Last year, the brand tapped minimalist Pedro Henriques to cover half of a UX crossover in white paint and toss some black splotches on an LFA coupe. While we don’t have problems with art cars, Lexus’ offerings from 2018 were beyond bland. I placed their level of excitement and memorability somewhere between eating a bowl of dry cereal and ordering a package of socks online.

Unfortunately, the automaker’s creative aspirations don’t appear to have evolved and absolutely reek of corporate shenanigans. Elliott is probably most famous for working with Nike, specifically on the latest incarnation of its Air Force 1 sneakers. Despite the shoes looking like the prescription jobs my grandfather wore in 1990, they’ve become popular enough for some high level cross-branding with Lexus.

Ultimately, this just means a new set of shoe-inspired tires. Typically, this works backwards — with shoe companies delivering special edition footwear based on a specific automotive brands or models.

This time around, we got a shoe-based car instead of the usual car-based shoe. Maybe that’s not be the best way to explain the situation. The only thing that has really changed on the Lexus is the rubber, which does match the famous white Nikes right down to the swoosh. But it all feels so lazy. Save for Elliot’s own name on the rear doors and the completely white paint job, there’s nothing else to set this car apart from a standard Lexus UX — it even wears stock wheels.

The most unpalatable aspect of this has precious little to do with design and everything to do with the clumsy attempt at cross-branding. Nike wanted to further promote the shoe, Lexus wanted to highlight the brand’s involvement, and John Elliot knew this would help raise awareness of his clothing line. You can almost hear the dull teleconference where this idea was pushed through as you gaze into the UX’s chalky rounds.

“We were excited to merge the streetwear narrative and design cues of our Air Force 1 with a brand like Lexus,” Elliot said at the unveiling. “We’re thankful they’ve allowed us to use this moment to celebrate the arts and to bring extra energy to our take on a classic … It’s fun to partner with brands that typically live outside the fashion community because it allows us to evolve and continue to push our own boundaries.”

We would like to congratulate Mr. Elliot for not forgetting to mention every key player involved in this utterly transparent business decision masquerading as art. But what the hell constitutes “the streetwear narrative?” At least Pedro Henriques cooked up a story about how his work with Lexus allowed for him to design a piece that says something about contemporary living.

On the upside, the Sole of the UX debut also included a charity auction benefiting Inner-City Arts in Los Angeles. As for the car, it’s effectively a mobile art installation aimed at promoting the companies involved to key demographics ( young urbanites with extra cash). Lexus has no intention of selling its UX with white rubber and Nike isn’t going to start competing with Goodyear — not that you could safely drive on these tires if they did.

[Images: Lexus; John Elliot]

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3 of 33 comments
  • Cdotson Cdotson on Feb 14, 2019

    Overpriced consumerist crap devoid of unique style? PURPOSE MADE for Lexus tie-in.

    • ToddAtlasF1 ToddAtlasF1 on Feb 14, 2019

      I long for the days when Toyota was devoid of unique style. Is it your take that their designers assumed new German cars sell because they're ugly, so Lexus is ripping off the German's gimmick of being hideous? I tend to look at the spindle as being repellent in its own way.

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Feb 14, 2019

    Looking at those shoes, it sounds like their target audience is Nurse Ratched.

  • Keith Maybe my market's different. but 4.5k whack. Plus mods like his are just donations for the next owner. I'd consider driving it as a fun but practical yet disposable work/airport car if it was priced right. Some VAG's (yep, even Audis) are capable, long lasting reliable cars despite what the haters preach. I can't lie I've done the same as this guy: I had a decently clean 4 Runner V8 with about the same miles- I put it up for sale around the same price as the lower mile examples. I heard crickets chirp until I dropped the price. Folks just don't want NYC cab miles.
  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.