LONDON — A priceless, one-off, collaboration.
The project, titled Phantom Syntopia, was inspired by van Herpen’s fall 2018 haute couture collection of the same name, and has been in the works since the start of the pandemic — taking it three years to complete.
The North America client had requested an haute couture-inspired car. It’s a common practice for clients to arrive with an idea in mind.
“At the very beginning, I made three different concepts and three different proposals. We did tests on all of them,” said van Herpen at Rolls-Royce’s headquarters in Goodwood, situated near Chichester, in the south of England.
The final product is an iridescent vehicle that reveals purple, blue, magenta and gold undertones when viewed from different angles. The hood is decorated with a subtle swirling water motif that’s evident through van Hapern’s body of work. The bespoke coloring took more than 3,000 hours of testing.
The water weaving continues inside the car’s gallery and onto the starlight, where a single sheet of flawless leather was used and finished with 162 delicate petals hand applied by van Herpen’s couture team, who traveled to Goodwood to undertake the task. Adding a touch of bling is the 995 lit sparkling fiber optic stars, which is a Rolls-Royce house code.
The two front seats are finished in gray leather and the rear seats are made of a specially made silk-blend fabric with a jacquard effect to imitate light reflecting on water at night, with white lambswool floor mats.
The Phantom Syntopia is the first vehicle to feature its own bespoke scent using cedarwood with added powdery notes of iris, leather, rose and mild lemon.
The car stands at 64.5 inches in height, 230 inches in length and 78.3 inches in width, and is a nuanced work of art — at first glance it seems uncomplicated and fuss-free, but it is Rolls-Royce’s biggest bespoke project to date.
“I’m quite selective in the collaborations that I’m doing, so I really took the time to understand more about the car and philosophy behind the designs here. I underestimated it when I started and I thought it would be shorter and easier,” said van Herpen of the grueling process.
“It’s quite different to start a collection because this is an artwork that is set in stone. When I work on a collection, it’s all about having the interaction with the human body, the movement and the transformative elements from that. I really wanted to bring in movement here, but in a static way,” she added, referring to the water theme.
The process for a bespoke car begins at Rolls-Royce’s headquarters, where clients are met in the purple lounge with two images of its founders, Charles Rolls and Henry Royce, hung on the wall. That is followed by a tour into the design room filled with items for inspiration, including a guitar case, a blue windowpane suit, a saddle, a white plate printed with consultations, a toy motorboat and more.
In the same room there are examples of previous bespoke projects, such as a white leather seat decorated with the LGBTQ flag, black luggage trimmed with orange, customized headrests, a wall of different-colored threads and fabrics and a locked glass case containing various dashboard designs, which also features a black gallery scattered with diamonds that came as a result of a client providing the design team with a pouch filled with diamonds.
The completion of a bespoke car is presented in a dramatic fashion inside a large studio with curtains. The Rolls-Royce team produces a short film about the project that’s unveiled behind the curtain with flashing spotlights and high electro-operatic music.
There’s no doubt that a Rolls-Royce client is a couture client — the stakes for showstopping creations remain at a high standard.
“The involvement of the client is so similar to working on a couture or wedding look. They are part of the whole development process and it’s really a moment that the client is looking forward to,” said van Herpen.
“What I learned the most is how powerful the experience of being inside a car can be. I did not have an experience like that before as I’ve mainly seen a car as a functional product, but it also gives the possibility to add details and such personal artwork while on the move which I was not aware of,” she added.
It was important to van Herpen that the finished product wouldn’t be something the client “gets tired of over time.” She wants the owner of the Phantom Syntopia to discover new nuances with each drive, she said.