Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has brought Serenity to the 2015 Geneva International Motor Show, unveiling the new standard in authentic, bespoke luxury motoring to the world's media.
Showcasing the tireless efforts of the Bespoke designers and craftspeople at the Home of Rolls-Royce at Goodwood to "Take the best that exists and make it better," Serenity introduces a completely new level of individualised luxury applied to a Rolls-Royce Phantom - already considered by owners and admirers alike to be "the Best Car in the World."
Sir Henry Royce's maxim, "When it does not exist, design it," inspired the latest generation of Rolls-Royce's Bespoke designers to ask what wholly new approach to luxury would delight the most demanding and exacting people in the world - Rolls-Royce customers. Their answer came from Rolls-Royce's deep understanding of the most precious, beautiful and natural materials.
Silk would prove to be the route to a new definition of luxury, one that guarantees every customer a canvas for completely unique design, every time.
The marque's Bespoke Design team took inspiration from the opulent interiors of Rolls-Royces that have conveyed Kings and Queens, Emperors and Empresses and world leaders. Add to this, contemporary interpretations of furniture design combined with Japanese Royal robe motifs and Rolls-Royce designers have delivered a truly innovative, thoroughly modern and tranquil Rolls-Royce interior.
Delivering authentic modern luxury, Serenity reintroduces the finest of textiles - silk - to create the most opulent interior of any luxury car. This unique design demonstrates the levels of craftsmanship, creativity and attention to detail only Rolls-Royce Motor Cars can offer.
The fabric of the ultimate Phantom
"Having revisited the history of the amazing interiors of the elite Rolls-Royce's of the early 1900's, we felt inspired to share this heritage with our new customers in a very contemporary way," comments Giles Taylor, Director of Design at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
The choice of Phantom for this project was obvious, but creating the motif that would define this most opulent and modern of automotive interiors would require considerable new expertise.
Cherica Haye and Michelle Lusby, both Textile Arts graduates from the Royal College of Art and Plymouth University respectively, joined Rolls-Royce's Bespoke Design department to help realise the direction of the core motif for this magnificent one-off Phantom.
"Some of the most opulent silk motifs come to us from the Orient, where imperial families' and rich merchants' robes were made from the finest silk materials," comments Lusby.
The ultimate example of the most opulent robe design became the junihitoe, a highly complex handmade 'twelve-layer robe' of silk worn only by female Japanese courtiers. The colours and the arrangements of the layers were very important, with the colours given poetic names such as 'crimson plum of the spring'.
In addition, during the Japanese Edo period (1615-1868), the merchant and artisan classes commissioned beautiful clothes to demonstrate their wealth and good taste. Clothing developed into a highly expressive means of personal display, an important indicator of rising affluence and aesthetic sensibility.
A new aesthetic known as iki, or elegant chic, meant anyone with real taste focussed on subtle details, whilst those with style and money found ways to circumvent rules that forbade the use of certain colours, such as red, by applying them to undergarments and linings.
"The rear compartment of a Phantom is the most tranquil, beautiful place to be, a place where time and the outside world simply slip past," says Haye. "This tranquillity made us think of the Oriental tradition where Emperors would take to their private gardens to reflect in solitude under the blossom trees. The blossom motif is one that is cherished in Far Eastern culture and has been beautifully applied to Royal robe design over the centuries. We felt it was the perfect representation of tranquillity and serenity for a beautiful modern interior from Rolls-Royce."
Creating the interior of Serenity
As with the creation of every Rolls-Royce, the genesis of Serenity and its blossom motif began with a blank piece of paper. However, unlike any other Rolls-Royce, it also began with a blank bolt of the finest hand-woven silk.
In order to create this totally one-off bolt of silk for Serenity, the Bespoke team looked to Suzhou, China, the town renowned for its creation of imperial embroidery. The team sourced the unspun silk thread and had it hand-dyed by the Chinese craftspeople who have been creating beautiful silks for centuries.
It was then transported to one of Britain's oldest mills, based in Essex, to be hand-woven into just 10 metres of the fabric - enough to clothe the interior of Serenity - in a process that took two days or two hours per meter of fabric. The numerous colours of silk thread were painstakingly blended into the highest quality warp which has 140 threads per centimetre to result in the lustrous Smoke Green colour of the underlying silk fabric.
Once prepared, the plain Smoke Green silk was transferred to London where the blossom motif designed by Haye and Lusby - a uniquely modern take on centuries-old silk Chinoiserie - began to flourish across the fabric as British and Chinese craftspeople embroidered their vision of copper-coloured branches and white petals.
The final touch was the detailed petal by petal hand-painting of crimson blossoms directly onto the silk. The resulting panels and swatches that have formed the centrepiece of Serenity would take up to 600 hours of work per panel.
The style of painting employed in the design of the Serenity silk is a centuries-old technique known as 'unconscious painting'. Much of Japanese painting technique is learned through very fine and detailed rendering of classical forms within nature; branches, leaves, flowers, bamboo etc.
The work can be painstaking with the same form rendered again and again. The purpose of this repetition is to imbue in the artist an innate understanding of these natural forms until their balance and nature is understood without thought.
In order to paint a calm and beautiful image the artist must be calm of mind. Mood becomes all important as it will influence the balance and mood of the work. A meditative state results where the brush can flow freely in the artist's hand - a state of 'unconscious painting'. So in preparing to paint the panels for Serenity, the serene state of mind was all important. The branches needed to have life, movement, spontaneity - but with grace and calm.
Inspiring Serenity - the ultimate in Bespoke luxury
"From renaissance times to the modern day, eminent people have surrounded themselves with rare fabrics such as silk to signify their power and position in society, whether at home or on the move," explains Giles Taylor, Director of Design at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. "In the early 20th Century, as closed Rolls-Royce's replaced luxurious carriages, these opulent fabrics began travelling with their owners in the rear compartments of the world's finest motor cars."
As discerning customers in the early 1900's moved from horse drawn carriage to motor car, the style for many of their luxury automobiles was the Sedanca de Ville. With open cockpits, chauffeurs continued to sit on leather, a naturally robust material suited to exposure to the elements. However, luxurious fabrics remained the upholstery of choice for the occupants of the rear compartment.
Only when automotive leather became more refined was it accepted by patrons of the prestigious marques as a luxury material. At the same time the increasing availability of artificial fabrics to the wider car industry meant that leather was seen as a luxury, and the best leather, the ultimate luxury. Today, only the finest hides make it into a Rolls-Royce motor car.
"The desire for the finest, most opulent fabrics endures amongst the cognoscenti around the world, including many Rolls-Royce owners," continues Taylor. "The thought that fabrics such as silk have been discounted from use because of their delicacy only spurred us on to go further than any other car maker is capable of doing. The result is Serenity."
More than just Silk
Of course, the creation of the most opulent interior of any luxury car could not simply rely on beautiful silk upholstery. Taking its cue from the world of modern furniture design, the rear occupants' elevated and powerful seating position has been accentuated with the valances of the seats made from rare Smoked Cherrywood. Reminding one of the drivers' position in the early 1900's motor car, the seats in the front of the car are clothed in Arctic White leather.
Smoked Cherrywood continues the Oriental theme within the cabin, applied the Serenity's door cappings, dash fascia and rear centre console, but further embellished by another beautiful Far-Eastern wood - Bamboo - with the highly skilled application of Bamboo cross-banding.
In addition, the blossom motif from the silk is recreated through the finest marquetry on the rear door cappings through the use of Mother of Pearl, which is laser-cut and hand-applied, petal by petal into the wood. Mother of Pearl is created when two substances, one mineral and the other organic, combine. Tiny hexagonal plates of aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate, are arranged in layers alternating with conchiolin, a flexible protein similar to silk that is secreted by the mollusk.
This theme is continued in the driver's compartment of the car with Mother of Pearl applied to the face of Bespoke Serenity's clock and the driver's instrument dials. This Mother of Pearl face is etched with concentric circles redolent of the raked gravel seen in Japanese gardens, and is inlaid with hand-applied rubies which echo the colour of the hand-painted flowers in the silk lining.
Continuing the theme of ultimate luxury, the luggage compartment of Serenity is lined in Arctic White leather with an Arctic White carpet.
As a final touch, two parasols featuring the Serenity motif are held by Bespoke leather loops incorporated into the boot lid.
Seductive and beautiful exterior
The lustre of Phantom Serenity's exterior dazzles with its powerful and noble presence.
Its Bespoke Mother of Pearl paint is the most expensive one-off paint ever developed by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. It has been added in a three stage pearl effect and hand-polished for 12 hours by the craftspeople at the Home of Rolls-Royce at Goodwood to deliver this shimmering presence.
Hinting at what is to come, a delicate two colour coachline with three colour blossom motif echoes the interior. The coachline that adorns Serenity's exterior has been applied by the squirrel-hair brush of the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars coachline expert, Mark Court. The asymmetric nature of the coachline signifies the respective positions of owner and chauffeur, with the entrance to the rear compartment indicated on the right-hand side of the car with the blossom on the rear wing and coachline ending at the B-pillar.
Bespoke is Rolls-Royce
Phantom Serenity is the latest one-off commission to come from the Bespoke team at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. One-off commissions and Bespoke Collections helped Bespoke sales to grow globally by 31% in 2014, with 85% of all Rolls-Royce motor cars sold around the world commissioned with some level of Bespoke content.
Whilst every Rolls-Royce is special, nearly every customer desires extraordinary distinguishing features to make their car completely unique. Fulfilling these requests falls to the marque's Bespoke design department; a collective of the automotive world's finest designers, engineers and craftspeople.
This approach has distinguished Rolls-Royce Motor Cars for over a century, with today's methods echoing the age of the coachbuilder when customers purchased their chassis and engine before sending it away to be bodied to their exacting specifications. From the finest detailing to the boldest statement, customers work in close collaboration with the team to realise their desires. Inspiration can come from anywhere; whether it is a request to perfectly match the exterior finish to a favourite garment or a more elaborate creation that seeks to tell a story, no idea is left unexplored.
With an unparalleled scope for personalisation, Bespoke is very much the jewel in the crown of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars' unique brand promise. Indeed, Bespoke is Rolls-Royce.