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Custom Vespa and Olympus takes centre stage in Harrods display

A Vespa for all seasons
A Vespa for all seasons
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Thursday, 14, Nov 2013 01:15

by Damien Sharkov

Time and time again the English weather's unfavourable comparison to the climate of the Mediterranean homeland of two wheels irks us to say the least.

Yet, as we stroll down Christmas coloured Knightsbridge in what is decidedly not a sunny morning in mid November, London redeems itself.

What is more we have a festive treat, waiting for us in Harrods, as the team-up between Olympus and Vespa is to see the light of day, in time for the launch of Olympus' new PEN camera.

The offspring of both companies is to sport custom artwork from London-based urban artist Suzie 'Suzko' Lowe, while fashion photographer Jay McLaughlin is the man shooting for the campaign.

"The London urban art scene is all about freedom of expression and encourages complete individuality on every level," Susie tells us.

With Milan and the new campaign for the Vespa Primavera still fresh in our memory, the common themes of youth, freedom and style we were told about are quick to resurface.

At the same time, however, the prestige of the vehicle stems from its long history. "People want to own something both unique, and something that has heritage which both Vespa and the Olympus PEN have" agrees Jay.

Taking flight

Looking at the feathery and lilac winged pattern, adorning the leg guard, body and helmet of the scooter, the artwork recaptures the element of flight that is entrenched in Vespa's history.

Enrico Piaggio's prototype which served as the basis of D'ascanio's first sketches of the Vespa was nicknamed 'Il Paperino' or Donald Duck, due to its birdlike qualities.

The Vespa's name came after Piaggio himself saw and heard the scooter for the first time, promoting it from duck to wasp.

Suzie's thought process seems to have gone a very similar way: "Olympus gave me a brief to work to which centred around the idea of travel; the notion being that the PEN is small, compact and easy to travel around with.

"I therefore settled on the theme of a bird, as this, for me, represents travel, flight and a unique bird's eye view of the world," she tells us.

Redesigning an icon

With a planned team-up with Bvlgari and now an endorsement of the new Olympus PEN camera, Vespa seems to enjoy the kind of celebrity, previously reserved for pop culture icons of the human variety.

'Vespa is a brand synonymous with uniqueness and flair that has always given its customers the ability to customise the product to fit with their own fashions' agrees Jay McLaughlin. 'The partnership with Olympus is an extension of that, and also plays with the idea of freedom' he adds.

As far as customisation goes, Suzie finds the body of the Vespa GTS equally cooperative.

"For me, Vespa has been a perfect item to customise. The body is smooth, easily sanded back and generally just a fab frame to work on" she says.

"Having never customised a scooter before, it was all a bit of a learning process" Suzie says. "I did a lot of research into the appropriate materials to use and all the preparation that needed to take place before even considering the design. The whole project was a challenge and I'm constantly learning new things the more I do."

While we admire the two-wheeler, Susie tells us to expect more from the project soon. Other than working on commissions and exhibitions, Susie is not quite done with customising Vespas.

"I have just completed the second customised scooter along with a helmet and camera for Olympus. This should hopefully be publicised soon. It's an ongoing project, so many more painted Vespas to come," she tells us.

While Vespa may be dedicating its newest models to springtime, Olympus, Suzko and Jay seem keen to make the scooter look just as comfortable, nestled by Harrods' Christmas tree, as we still have more than a bit of winter to get through. We cannot wait to see what more they have in store for us. Pardon the pun.

For a closer look at Suzko's artwork go to susielowe.carbonmade.com, and for more information about the Olympus PEN camera project, photographed by Jay McLaughlin you can click here

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