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Silk comes to Rolls-Royce. Image by Rolls-Royce.

Silk comes to Rolls-Royce
Rolls-Royce finds a more luxurious material than leather...
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What's this then?

This is the Rolls-Royce Phantom Serenity, a concept to show off exactly how luxurious the interior of Rolls' massive saloon can actually be. Usually seen swathed in leather and studded with wood (and even jewels) the interior of the Phantom Serenity uses a material not normally seen on the inside of a car; silk.

"Having revisited the history of the amazing interiors of the elite Rolls-Royces of the early 1900s, 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."

Rolls sourced its silk from China, the source of some of the best quality thread around, and then shipped it to a textile mill in Essex where it was painstakingly woven into 140-thread-per-inch cloth. It took two full days to weave just 10 metres.

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.

"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-Royces 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 1900s moved from horse drawn carriage to motorcar, 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 did patrons of the prestigious marques accept it 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.

"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."

Fancy it on the inside of your new Rolls-Royce? You have only to ask and Rolls' Bespoke Division will oblige. And if sir has to ask, then sir can doubtless not afford...

Neil Briscoe - 3 Mar 2015

Earlier articles featuring 2015 Rolls-Royce Phantom

2014-10-04: Phantom Metropolitan is no urban myth

2015 Rolls-Royce Bespoke Serenity Phantom. Image by Rolls-Royce.2015 Rolls-Royce Bespoke Serenity Phantom. Image by Rolls-Royce.2015 Rolls-Royce Bespoke Serenity Phantom. Image by Rolls-Royce.2015 Rolls-Royce Bespoke Serenity Phantom. Image by Rolls-Royce.2015 Rolls-Royce Bespoke Serenity Phantom. Image by Rolls-Royce.

2015 Rolls-Royce Bespoke Serenity Phantom. Image by Rolls-Royce.2015 Rolls-Royce Bespoke Serenity Phantom. Image by Rolls-Royce.2015 Rolls-Royce Bespoke Serenity Phantom. Image by Rolls-Royce.2015 Rolls-Royce Bespoke Serenity Phantom. Image by Rolls-Royce.2015 Rolls-Royce Bespoke Serenity Phantom. Image by Rolls-Royce.

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