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Record numbers of Rolls-Royce bespoke vehicles are leaving Goodwood, home of the Spirit of Ecstasy in West Sussex, encapsulated at its artistic zenith with the introduction of the Phantom Gallery, an ingeniously applied panel of uninterrupted glass across the dashboard of the new Rolls-Royce Phantom. Aptly named “The Gallery”, this creative exhibition space across the fascia of the Phantom provides an unprecedented opportunity to present bespoke artwork and assorted expressions of personal style, contributing to the global demand for Rolls-Royce Bespoke.
“Patrons increasingly commission a Rolls-Royce for its aesthetic power, they trust in hands of our artisans in production of a car that transcends its primary role as a conveyance, to become a meaningful and substantive expression of art. ‘The Gallery’ is an innovation that furthers Rolls- Royce’s unparalleled Bespoke capabilities. Patrons are now invited to commission artworks for their own personal Gallery within Phantom, in essence, bringing art, within art.” – Torsten Müller Ötvös, CEO Rolls-Royce
Over the last century since its founding, Rolls-Royce often ran the danger of becoming a common synonym for quality when less industrious journalists alluded to new product launches from brands not traditionally associated with the Goodwood marque as “the Rolls-Royce of
Needless to say, this legacy was hard-earned, informed by an intimate understanding of true luxury. As an exclusive interview with Rolls-Royce Chief Executive Torsten Müller Ötvös would elucidate, the marque’s collective of designers, artisans and engineers of the most celebrated luxury automobile in the world have to be thoroughly knowledgeable and extraordinarily acquainted with the personal tastes and lifestyle needs of the global elite.
In art as in Rolls-Royce automobiles, inspiration is not just limited to fashion, art and design, the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Collective, a group of designers, artisans, craftspeople and engineers residing at the brand’s Goodwood-based Global Centre of Luxury Manufacturing Excellence draws upon the entire world, most recently tapping upon the naturalistic beauty espoused by Nature Squared.
Rolls-Royce Phantom Gallery x Nature Squared: Ethical Luxury
While Nature Squared is not a globally recognised name (yet), the design atelier has been quietly creating unimaginably opulent hand-inlaid surfaces on land and sea. Founded by Tay Lay Koon, the former Malaysian and now naturalised citizen of the United Kingdom, created a business built upon reaffirming the value of artisanal skills through the reinforcement of undeniable links between nature and human endeavour.
Collaborating on a variety of ground-breaking projects with the likes of Montblanc and BMW, Tay’s Nature Squared now counts Rolls-Royce among her clientele. Embodying Tays values and ambitions, Nature Squared utilises natural materials, treated and finished to its most artistic and luxurious levels.
Nature Squared uses only by-products from other industries like fishing and farming: abalone shells are sourced from a community- based farm in Asia, eggshells come from hatcheries, the glorious plumage reminiscent of dark mother of pearl, is actually from table chickens, that is to say that the poultry has actually consumed across countless dinners – nothing ever goes to waste nor are materials that are endangered, protected or threatened or not found in abundance ever used.
The Gallery is entirely sealed along with any dust or fingerprints we accidentally left behind it so perfection is at the forefront of whatever we do with the Phantom Gallery. – Michael Bryden, Lead Designer, Rolls-Royce Bespoke Design
LUXUO talks to Michael Bryden, Lead Designer, Rolls-Royce Bespoke Design about incorporating Nature Squared in the Gallery
Michael joined the Bespoke Collective at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars after he graduated from university. Bryden currently leads the curation of all Rolls-Royce Bespoke cars by engaging customers in dialogue throughout the creative process in order to gain in-depth understanding of what inspires them and how the Bespoke commission would fit in their lifestyle.
I was wondering if given the tactility of these feathers, granted that it is ensconced behind the Phantom Gallery’s continuous glass, was there any research or plans developed to have it in the open by properly treating or reinforcing this surface since it you know it begs to be touched?
It was always going to be behind glass. With a Rolls-Royce vehicle, it has to stay looking beautiful for an extremely long period of time, especially when 85% of the cars ever built by Rolls-Royce are still running today. We need to make sure that all our bespoke commissions have to last, even when they are natural materials which will decompose over time but they shouldn’t visually degrade.
Origin of material has become important with growing “woke culture” especially with wood products like timbre from various parts of the world which might not have the most eco-friendly reputations, is Rolls-Royce going to continue using timber?
We have a number of designs where we use timber as the main material and they are sourced worldwide, one of the things we do is ensure they’re from a responsible source. We will never use a material that is questionably sourced. We’ve had a huge property developer customer who proposed using 3d geometry to reflect the design of buildings within the gallery space, the veneers and materials used to capture his vision were all traceable.
Tay Lay Koon adds: The fact is because the way we founded this company on an ethos of complete traceability and starting with our source communities. Now in the last you know two to three years when the subject has come to the fore. We get a lot of approaches to collaborate and we are very good about greenwashing companies who we don’t want to be associated with, and I’m delighted to say that there was no question regarding the ethics of how we use and produce the artworks.
How long does the process take (e.g. plucking the feathers) from concept to reality?
Tay: It terms of the artisan, it takes 18 weeks of hand crafting but it does not include the sourcing – with feathers, it is particularly difficult to find a perfectly balanced, well proportioned feather. And then there’s also putting it together and realising that they all don’t fit together perfectly, you’d be surprised how meticulous we had to be and how much curation went into it.
Bryden: In terms of a Rolls-Royce Bespoke project the time required differs varies massively depending on the scope of the project, the steps to take and also the decisiveness of the customer. A customer may enjoy the journey and often want to keep on adjusting and perfecting until the application is exactly right.
Say a customer has a particularly impractical bespoke idea that requires a specific seashell from a specific beach, would you ever say no or would you try?
Bryden: We will always accept it as a challenge and then, we can’t realise exactly what they want, we will show them alternatives. So, it’s really, really collaborative in that sense. The customer will make an initial suggestion and we will try and realise that, or at least realise the spirit of the request.
Lay Koon: We had an owner was absolutely determined that his sand from his favourite beach in Australia was the whitest in the world. And so we collaborated with this artist and it was you know very sculptural and we wanted to cover it in the sand. And then of course, you know, it’s the play of light that really gives you that particular colour or special quality, and lo and behold, when we put the sand on, it just looked a little bit grey. So we ended up getting the sand from various different beaches and then trying it out on him it was like blind tasting, you know, which one do you like best, and he was absolutely determined that his was going to be the best, and it wasn’t what he did accept in the end was the best objectively.
You are working with materials and paints which might interact adversely or deteriorate quicker if exposed to an environment, just how difficult is it to create a contained environment within the Phantom Gallery?
In introducing the bespoke Gallery, we also introduced a whole new production line. We have a clean room not typically found in automotive production. The artisans need to put on a clean suit and enter a temperature and moisture controlled area. Once the glass goes on, the Gallery is entirely sealed along with any dust or fingerprints we accidentally left behind it so perfection is at the forefront of whatever we do with the Phantom Gallery.
We’ve been seeing more Swarovski encrusted Rolls-Royce cars, those are typically after-market, any chance that Goodwood would have their own version of this or it’s not within the brand’s scope or DNA?
It’s not what we would necessarily do. We prefer to have a flawless piano finish on our cars but we have pioneered recently is a paint technique where we introduce very fine glass particles into the clear-coat. In the distance, a Rolls-Royce with such a coat may look like a solid colour but in the sunlight, it sparkles.