Weather-proof leather upholstery might have been acceptable for the chauffeur of a Sedanca de Ville exposed to the elements in the early 1900s, but the owners of such motorcars would not have dreamt of reclining on anything quite so practical in their opulent enclosed passenger compartments.
The new Rolls-Royce Serenity show car harks back to that golden era with a wonderfully opulent interior, designed, it seems, to reclaim the term ‘bespoke’ from an automotive industry determined to hijack the word and redefine it as a euphemistic substitute for an optional extras list.
We haven’t seen a point so beautifully made in quite a while.
Rolls-Royce describes the Serenity as the showcase for ‘a new standard in authentic, bespoke luxury motoring’, and as you can see its designers and craftspeople looked to the Orient for inspiration.
‘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,’ says Giles Taylor, R-R’s design chief.
‘In the early 20th Century, as closed Rolls-Royces replaced luxurious horse-drawn carriages, these opulent fabrics began travelling with their owners in the rear compartments of the world’s finest motor cars.
‘The desire for the finest, most opulent fabrics endures amongst the cognoscenti around the world, including many Rolls-Royce owners. 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 starting point for the Serenity’s interior was a blank bolt of the finest hand-woven silk sourced from Suzhou, China, a town renowned for its creation of imperial embroidery. The unspun silk thread was hand-dyed by Chinese craftspeople who have been creating beautiful silks for centuries and then transported to one of Britain’s oldest mills to be hand-woven into just 10 metres of the fabric. Numerous colours of silk thread were then 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 embroidered blossom motif – a modern take on centuries-old silk Chinoiserie – was applied.
The final touch was the detailed petal by petal hand-painting of crimson blossoms directly onto the silk, with the whole process demanding an astonishing 600 hours of work – per panel!
While it is the opulent silk that really catches the eye, the rest of the interior is adorned with smoked cherrywood with bamboo cross-banding and Mother of Pearl marquetry. Mother of Pearl is also used for the clock face and instrument dials – the latter etched with concentric circles as per the raked gravel seen in Japanese gardens – and inlaid with rubies to echo the colour of the hand-painted flowers in the silk lining. Just for fun, the front seats of the Phantom Serenity are trimmed in leather to remind us of the class division in those old Sedancas de Ville.
The ‘Mother of Pearl’ coachwork of the Phantom Serenity is as opulent as the car’s interior, and features the most expensive one-off paint the company has ever developed (they tell us!). It’s a three-stage pearl-effect, and it was hand-polished for a mere 12 hours at the Rolls-Royce factory (just over the road from the GRR office here at Goodwood) before the car left for its Geneva show debut.
And we thought they polished them all for that long…