How Kia’s new Telluride rumbled onto the runway

At Fashion Week, a one-of-a-kind Telluride featured leather adornments.

NEW YORK — The boxy Kia Telluride crossover concept was one of the stars of the 2016 Detroit auto show, so it seemed like a good bet that the road-ready version of the crossover would be unwrapped in the Motor City as well. Indeed, that was the plan.

But then the glitz of New York Fashion Week came calling. Womenswear designer Brandon Maxwell reached out to Kia in August to work with him for his Texas-themed show. So before heading to Detroit in 2019 for an official unveiling, Kia executives decided, the Telluride would first crash a different kind of party.

Kia. Texas. Fashion. What’s the connection?

It’s not easy to see, but it’s an authentic American story: Maxwell, whose creations are worn by such celebrities as Lady Gaga, Meghan Markle and Michelle Obama, came from humble beginnings in East Texas, where his grandmother worked at a boutique, and recalls being driven to school by his mother in a Kia Sedona minivan.

Saad Chehab, Kia Motor America’s vice president of marketing communications, said the brand jumped on the chance to showcase the new three-row Telluride, with a one-of-a-kind model decked out for the runway with leather on the dash, door panels, side mirrors and grab handles. Kia had a few weeks to make a plan and customize the vehicle before the Sept. 8 show.

The chic spectacle, which drew celebrities such as comedian Tiffany Haddish, would give the Korean brand an unlikely stage. Then again, Chehab said, Kia is often showing up in unexpected places, such as the luxury sports sedan segment and the top tier of the industry’s quality rankings.

“It doesn’t hurt to be in a party that is supposedly limited to the privileged few. It doesn’t hurt to crash that party,” Chehab told Automotive News. “It’s part of the attitude and personality of Kia to say: ‘I’m sorry, who’s Porsche Panamera? We can beat that performance with the Stinger.’ ”

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