This Negroni Trunk Could Be The Most Stylish Modern Car Accessory

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WM Brown Negroni Trunk Matt Hranek Some inventions help change the world. Others are designed to make life just a touch more pleasant. The Negroni Trunk is such a creation. The product was born from a love for this quintessential Italian tipple, a fondness for tweed, Land Rovers and adventure. […]

Some inventions help change the world. Others are designed to make life just a touch more pleasant. The Negroni Trunk is such a creation. The product was born from a love for this quintessential Italian tipple, a fondness for tweed, Land Rovers and adventure. This is a project of chance, evolved through process and unexpected popularity. If we take the words of the aesthete and design critic Stephen Bayley literally when he says “luxury is the anticipation of pleasure” then the Negroni Trunk is a fine expression of this.

The idea of bespoke branded luggage and food and drink hampers has long appealed to luxury makers. Rolls-Royce and Bentley both have picnic sets. The latest Rolls-Royce Champagne Chest is a custom-built product with design cues borrowed from the auto and nautical worlds. Swathed in black leather, the modest box theatrically unfolds to reveal an illuminated chest housing hand-blown crystal flutes (arranged to evoke the V12 engine), chilled tins for caviar, while the exterior lid doubles up as a delicate serving tray of Tudor Oak wood and laser-cut stainless-steel inlay.

The Negroni Trunk is an altogether more personal project. The idea came to be in a Florentine bar – in the city where the Negroni is believed to have been created, also by chance, by a rackety count some one-hundred years ago. Matt Hranek, New York-based author and founder/editor of men’s lifestyle magazine WM Brown Project, happened to be in Italy celebrating the publication of his first issue. A self-confessed Negroni-tippler, he had come across a company crafting whisky and Champagne trunks in Morocco using saddle leather and thought it charming to interpret the case with tweed fabric to house key ingredients for making the Negroni cocktail.

His concept was for a case that is at once “rugged, but elegant” he offers over the phone. We both share a bit of a passion for motor cars and Negronis – mine incidentally led to The Life Negroni, a book entirely dedicated to the world (real and in the imagination) surrounding the cocktail. “I thought why not create a trunk made out of tweed,” he continues, “the kind of case you would just put at the back your Land Rover without feeling too precious about it, yet the tweed makes it elegant enough to keep in your office or at home.”

Hranek thus approached Douglas Cordeaux, a friend and managing director of Fox Brothers. The English heritage textile maker has been weaving some of the finest woolen fabrics from its base in the south west of the country, in Somerset since 1772. “I asked if he has some red-net tweed that I could use to build this prototype and he suggested we just make a Negroni-inspired tweed instead,” he recalls.

The classic Negroni is a lethally delicious mix involving equal measures of gin, red vermouth and a bitter spirit (most commonly the vividly crimson Campari), mixed over ice and completed with a slice or a sliver of orange. The cocktail color is therefore a deeply intense red hue. “I sent a couple of pictures of my favorite density of the Negroni and Douglas milled a tweed prototype.” Hranek then showed the fabric to a few friends and they “went crazy for it,” he muses. “The Negroni tweed is quite a bold fabric and people started making full suits and blazers, even overcoats with it.”

Then came the making of the trunk. The initial Moroccan venture didn’t quite work out and so Hranek approached Tanner Krolle, the luxury leather goods brand with a long history of making travel trunks for Aston Martin as well as the likes of Sir Sterling Moss, Jackie Onassis, Cary Grant and Princess Dianna. “They loved the Negroni Trunk idea and agreed to collaborate,” he says. “A big part of their brand heritage is this beautiful horsehair that’s woven into the fabric and is matt and durable without feeling too tweedy or hairy. We lined it with saturated red suede, so when you open the trunk there is an explosion of color.” For the final touch, Hranek teamed with the French crystal maker Baccarat to create branded glasses for his Negroni Trunk. And a prototype case was born.

The Negroni Trunks are made-to-order and are customized and handmade in Italy. “The response has been incredible with people loving the idea, but they’re not cheap to create because of the material and the time it takes to make one. My dream is to do a limited run and reduce the cost for more people to enjoy it,” he says, adding with a chuckle, “so it’s not like investing in a car.”

I ask Hranek if he plans on Negroni Trunk derivatives, such as a mini satchel or rucksack for bikers or hikers. He says he did toy with a padded canvas bag idea containing three sections for the bottles but admits the car concept has more appeal. “The Negroni Trunk really suits an automobile trunk best because it’s not light. Once packed with bottles and glasses and barware it is like a solid piece of luggage.”

We are speaking very much in the height of New York and London’s coronavirus lockdown, so the mere idea of travel and road trips could not be more exotic. Since neither of us advocate drinking and driving, I’m intrigued to know how Hranek imagines the Negroni Trunk being used. “It is perfect for your sundowner, or a weekend away fly-fishing with a picnic by the lake. It is an elegant exchange, don’t you think? I love things that are dedicated to purpose.”

I ask of his ideal Negroni Trunk wheels. “I’m a big Land Rover fan,” he replies. “The fantasy would be to pair the trunk with a vintage Series II Land Rover, but equally it will suite the new Defender. What could be better than a four-wheel-drive through the wilderness, then at the end of the day pulling out an elegant Negroni Trunk with a bucket full of ice and mixing up a cocktail,” he says adding amusingly, “Looking ahead, I see a full Negroni objet world domination. You know, the project really started off as a big folly, but has been a really interesting one to develop.”

See the Rolls-Royce Champagne Chest, Marc Newson’s bespoke Ferrari luggage collection for Ferrari and read why car brands can benefit from collaborating with creatives from outside the auto world. Follow the link in my bio to see The Life Negroni.

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