Rolls-Royce’s latest Phantom is the most imaginatively handcrafted bespoke collection – Forbes | Candle Made Easy

The Phantom is rarely completely redesigned. These magnificent automobiles are meant to last well beyond fashion cycles, each personally tailored to be preserved, cherished and passed down through generations. Given the speed of technological and material change, the largest luxury van maker tends to revise its top product mid-life—new expressions that are almost always customer-centric.

The cars you see here with different impressions are closely based on the eighth generation 2017 Phantom. The changes are minor – subtle embellishments and adjustments to the original design. The most noticeable evolution is the Pantheon grille, which now features a polished horizontal line between the daytime running lights above the grille. At the same time, a subtle geometric refinement highlights the ‘RR’ emblem and Spirit of Ecstasy mascot, while the grille glows similar to the smaller Rolls-Royce Ghost.

Elsewhere, 3D-milled stainless steel wheels with triangular facets are available, commissioned in a fully or partially polished finish. Alternatively, the new disc wheel in polished stainless steel or black paint is reminiscent of the romance of the Rolls-Royce automobiles of the 1920s.

I asked Felix Kilbertus, Head of Exterior Design at Rolls-Royce, to walk me through the redesigned Phantom and help shed light on innovations in the new luxury landscape.

Nargess Banks: For the latest Phantom, you’ve opted for “light-touch” aesthetic changes. How did you decide what needs to be developed further and what should be left alone?

Felix Kilbertus: We wanted to get the best out of the Phantom character. Certain principles were clearly taboo – for example, changing the proportion or its presence, or changing simply for the sake of change.

Which goes perfectly with the words of your co-founder…

Henry Royce said, “Take the best and make it better.” Every idea for potential change that was put forward was evaluated through this lens. Does it represent the best? Can we do better? And only where we saw the potential to add something useful did we do so.

The Pantheon grid is the best example. It looks seamlessly integrated, and it’s only when compared to the Phantom Eight that you can appreciate the improved precision of the geometry and the composure that the ‘horizon line’ brings to the front end. And the grille is illuminated for the first time on the Phantom. Also, not all changes are obvious. For example, each louver on the grille is placed slightly differently, spaced more evenly, and attached closer to the grille frame. [Our motto is] take the best and make it better.

I know it’s early days, but do you see the next-gen Phantom making a much bolder change?

The Phantom is the nameplate for a long line of automobiles spanning nearly a century. Each generation has found its own form, spirit and personality and has often become a symbol of its time. When the time comes, I assume that the next generation will also shape their era.

Of course, it’s far too early to speculate about the car. First, we let our customers decide when it’s time to replace the current Phantom generation. And we have to be open to the needs of our future generation of customers. It is useless to design and define such things sooner than is necessary, lest we allow today’s thinking to cloud our judgment of the form of things to come.

Designing the Phantom certainly involves a deep dive into the present and future of luxury. What does luxury mean to you as a designer?

I see true luxury as the result of many things done right rather than an end in itself; it is an emerging property rather than a specific material, code or symbol. It is very difficult for me to describe what luxury means today. It’s layered and complex, and it’s great fun to see what meaning luxury can take on these days. There’s a lightness I particularly appreciate when things seem to start with someone saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if…”.

I like that… but as a manufacturer of luxury products, more specifically large luxury products, you certainly have a responsibility to respond to developments in climate, technology and so on.

Absolutely. Looking ahead, the key factors to watch out for are changes in technology, taste, and time. Each requires designers to respond accordingly: from new freedoms of form arising from technological advances, to designing for changing tastes and lifestyles, to the rapidity with which opinions and understandings are influenced by access to information about different cultures and societies will. At Rolls-Royce we have a rich and long heritage that allows us to innovate while remaining timeless and true to our brand values.

Rolls-Royce operates in the broader world of luxury – a world that goes far beyond cars. What do you learn and take from other fields: fashion, industrial design, architecture and so on?

We learn a lot from the luxury industry and the shared attention to detail, the importance of true originality and the quest for personal expression. We can learn beauty, pure form, elegance, expression and extroversion from fashion. But what I would take away most from this is how it makes us feel and what it says about us as individuals. Architecture is of particular interest as a discipline. “Think like an Architect” is a motto that we like to remember.

Can you explain how that inspires you?

By this we don’t mean taking the simple path of everyday automotive life and its style clichés, but really thinking about the spaces in which we humans live and paying attention to the expression of volumes, shapes, lines and materials. Architecture is a much older practice than car design, perhaps more talked about, thought about and written about in the centuries before the invention of the car than about industrial design or automotive design in the last century.

The automobile has influenced our societies and cities, but architecture has been an even deeper source of inspiration. As designers, we work in the long tradition of applied arts, where craftsmanship, science and technology meet our human needs and ambitions head-on.

Rolls-Royce invests heavily in the arts, championing emerging talent through the Muse programme, including highly provocative contemporary art, and supporting numerous arts organisations. How does this aspect of your business affect your thinking?

Art is a great source of inspiration, both for the aesthetic beauty that has traditionally been at the heart of fine arts, and for the conceptual work that helps us understand the underlying changes in the world. Contemporary art deals with issues long before the questions it poses have found answers in society.

With an increasingly younger customer base, how does Rolls-Royce design respond to new codes, expectations and expressions of luxury?

Our clients are surprisingly young, with an average age of just 43 years. Just like our founders who started our company over a century ago. In that sense, I feel like the brand is now closer than ever to those pioneering years. You’ll see this when you look at the incredible expression of our early Phantoms, many of which featured unique and even eccentric body styles, colors, materials and features.

How does that affect your design thinking?

We see our cars as canvases for self-expression. Phantom is certainly special in that regard. The Gallery” [where clients can commission artwork to be displayed behind glass across the fascia] embodies this and literally reserves an extraordinary space for pure artistic expression. This of course extends beyond the one canvas to the many surfaces, both interior and exterior, making the entire car a moving art.

As one of the most respected brands in the high-luxury landscape, what opportunities are there to evolve the scene to be less about material values ​​and more about the value of time, craft, shared moments and even experiences?

Rolls-Royce is known for its impeccable craftsmanship; We are known for our choice and execution of materials, the durability and reliability of our components and the authenticity and beauty of the finishes. Because that is a certainty, we can comfortably go beyond this aspect and invite clients into our ateliers and workshops – our global center of luxury manufacturing in Goodwood.

Has the central importance of craftsmanship influenced you as a designer?

Encountering the minds and hands behind the object certainly made me see our products and our brand promise differently. I can see the same fascination in the eyes of our customers when they visit us and discover that focus and dedication. Experience makes a huge difference: seeing and feeling where things come from, how hard it is to craft them, and the unique skills required to produce something properly. It creates a deep connection, a sense of origin.

This is luxury as an experience at the highest level…

In exceptional cases, our patrons embark on a long, sometimes year-long journey with our creative team. The memories made along the way are an integral part of the final product as nothing is left to chance, every detail is discussed and made to measure.

The interior of the car can easily show new luxury through the use of ecological materials and the presentation of handwork. But as the head of exterior design, how does one express a more progressive luxury through design language?

This is a very good question. One aspect of progressive luxury in exterior design is expressed in the pure quality of form and finish that endures aesthetically and materially.

Another aspect is the absence of superfluous elements – our models, for example, do not have a type plate on the outside – which enables a certain cleanliness and lets large surfaces speak for themselves. Another reason is the close attention to proportion, as impeccable proportions avoid the need to distract the eye from compromised areas with great stylistic effort. Serenity, purity and effortless proportions create the subtle appeal that makes our cars durable.

See the story behind that Rolls Royce boat tailthe pinnacle of luxury from the brand, and discover Rolls-Royce’s commitment to the arts.

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