Building luxury brands: Giles Taylor on the Rolls-Royce Phantom
Certain words are overused. Words such as designed, curated, crafted, iconic have become almost throwaways, often quoted out of context. Luxury is another. It is an overdone term and in danger of losing its power. Added to this, the luxury landscape is going through a radical makeover. No longer is it a simple case of expensive means luxurious. Time, authenticity, rarity, a rich story and a compelling narrative are elements that make an object, a place, a situation worthy of the label luxury.
As a creative agency and with clients in the luxury world, Spinach is keen to explore the concept beyond the obvious, to really understand how we can approach branding and design in a way that reflects the true meaning of luxury now and in the future. So, we were intrigued to be introduced to the new Phantom. Rolls-Royce’s pinnacle motor car is an incredibly significant product for the marque, since Phantoms don’t get to be designed and engineered from the ground up very often. In fact, Phantom has been reborn only eight times since Sir Henry Royce conceived the first model in 1925.
Our luxury consultant Nargess Banks was one of the first to drive the Phantom where she caught up with the director of design Giles Taylor to see how he sees this product maintaining its position as the ultimate symbol of luxury motoring.
Nargess Banks: The Phantom really is a car like no other. It has a sense of unmistakable classicism, majesty, stateliness even. How did you approach this latest model?
Giles Taylor: By paying respect to the history of Phantom, to get under its skin, to understand the classical routes, the classical bedrock that defines Phantom. At the same time, we wanted to take a big step forward in terms of modernity, to find a Phantom for the next-generation customer.
NB: Your typical customer has changed lately to be younger and more international. Rolls-Royce maintains its traditional patrons, but the average age is now in the mid-40s, which means there are an awful lot of twenty and thirty-somethings buying your cars. Does this mean this is more of a driver’s car?
GT: Yes, absolutely. As our demographic around the world becomes younger, as much as they like to be driven in a Phantom, they also like to drive them. In terms of design, whereas the previous Phantom had a sense of formality, this one has far more gesture and flow. We are going back to the 1930s and 40s spiritually, capturing the gesture of those cars.
NB: How important is it for you to appeal to this younger audience without losing your sense of classicism?
GT: I’m a true believer in something that has timelessness – modern classicism. It comes down to proportions, beauty in lines, understanding how simplicity is classicism. Rolls-Royce has to be an expression of modern classicism to appeal to its patrons.
NB: What’s fascinating is how elements such as the headlamp graphics have been kept very clear, containing a great deal of advanced technology yet lacking the elaborate design you see so much on modern cars.
GT: I agree, they are precise, fresh and optimistic. They don’t have a lot of silly jewellery – so they speak of luxury.
NB: One of the main highlights of Phantom VIII is ‘the gallery’. Spanning the width of the dashboard, this is a chance for customers to commission their own works of art to form their on-the-road exhibition. It really is a stage for self-expression, taking the concept of bespoke, so crucial in luxury motoring, to an entirely new level…
GT: It could be a Pandora’s box! But it will be exciting to see what some of our more artistic and creative customers will do here. ‘This space is for you’, is the message we’re sending. An art lover and the more confident clients wouldn’t be able to resist. The customers driving these cars have egos and characters that need expressing. Equally, many customers may ask to work with our team and seek an artistic hand. That is the beauty of it.
NB: Is it an exciting project to work on?
GT: As designers working in automotive, the gallery has opened-up a whole new world. Our crafts people at Goodwood love a challenge and have welcomed the gallery too. It really is a hugely innovative feature in an auto setting. It is something that couldn’t work in a ‘tick-box’ world.
NB: You’ve spoken to me in the past about luxury for Rolls-Royce being about the journey, creating a world that revolves a little slower, a world that is more of a sanctuary. Here the interior is envisaged around the idea of ‘the embrace’. Can you expand?
GT: It is about embellishing a story. So, the embrace begins with the fascia at the front, balanced to offer a social environment. In the rear, the way the coach doors are positioned forward becomes a gesture of embrace, and the passenger bench seats can be tilted to encourage social interaction. Technology is remotely controlled allowing passengers to sit back as the world comes to them. A crystal decanter and cooled glasses made bespoke by us are housed in the rear console. Finally, the starlight headline completes the story.
NB: What role do materials, textures, craftsmanship, stitching play in helping achieve this feeling?
GT: Every single interior element has been hand trimmed; it has the signature of the craftsman. There is an emotional connection. This is so unique to us at Rolls-Royce.
NB: Is Phantom VIII the most silent ride you have ever created?
GT: Absolutely. Psychologically, the embrace is also the touch of silence – the idea that you are riding with no noise pollution. As soon as the coach doors close shut, the Phantom driver can find inner solace. More than any of our cars, Phantom is about this sense of privacy and sanctuary.
NB: Is this something that relates to the idea of luxury going forward?
GT: Yes, definitely!
NB: How do you envisage the future for your brand?
GT: The Rolls-Royce DNA is about modernity. If you look back at our early Phantoms, for instance, there is a sense of purity in the design, of almost austerity. There is not a lot going on but clean shapes and incredible craftsmanship and execution. Modernity, craft, high tech is in our DNA.< Back