Bespoke in bloom
When Ayad Al Saffar arrived in Sweden from the Lebanon, aged 19, he sold three wristwatches for a small profit. “At the time I thought that, one day, I’ll be the king of watches in this country,” he says, with a laugh, “and I decided that my next car will be a Rolls-Royce.”
It took him 35 years to achieve that dream, but Ayad has done it in style. His dream Rolls-Royce is a blue Phantom, and he enlisted the marque’s Bespoke team to customize it in a way that fulfilled his personal passion. “I love flowers,” says the Swedish billionaire. “I have three daughters named after flowers. We thought that we’d make sure that there were flowers everywhere in the car. In the doors, in the ceiling, on the seats, embroidered around the interior and painted into the exterior.”
Ayad challenged the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Collective – which comprises more than 100 designers, craftspeople and engineers – to create a car that immerses its occupants in a beguiling floral scene. The result is a rose-entwined sanctuary of luxury, created with a million embroidered stitches. “It became an amazing piece of art,” says Ayad, “and I will never sell it!”
Torsten Müller Ötvös, the Chief Executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, considers the “million-stitch” vehicle to be one of the Bespoke team’s finest pieces of work. “The Rose Phantom is a stunning iteration of a contemporary Rolls-Royce,” he says. “Our extraordinary craftspeople at the Home of Rolls-Royce have achieved, with this car, something which can only be described as sublime. The work of our Bespoke Collective is the best in the world. When I look at creations like this car, it is with a sense of pride that I know that these skills could not be replicated anywhere else in the world. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest Rolls-Royce Phantoms of its generation.”
The Rose Garden at Rolls-Royce’s Goodwood headquarters – the only place in the world where the Phantom Rose variety of rose is grown – served as the primary point of inspiration for Bespoke Designer Ieuan Hatherall. The variety was bred exclusively for Rolls-Royce by British rose breeder Philip Harkness, whose family has been breeding roses since 1879. Indeed, the plants and flowers bred by Harkness Roses remain a constant favourite on the international horticultural scene, winning gold at the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show more than 25 times over the past 50 years.
The Phantom Rose grows in the courtyard of the marque’s Global Centre of Luxury Manufacturing Excellence, and the garden is visible to all workers from the floor-to-ceiling windows of the factory. “There is a transcendent beauty when a rose garden is in full bloom,” says Ieuan. “The patron wanted to create that same feeling of awe, an abundance of flowers to lift the spirit and celebrate nature’s decadent beauty, in the Rose Phantom’s serene interior.”
The Phantom Rose is a blousy, creamy-white flower, offering a full bloom of 50 petals and a rich perfume. Harkness describes it as a quintessentially English rose, which took eight years to develop. It was, he says, a labour of love. “A rose has the ability to captivate you on many levels,” says Philip Harkness. “It is a thing of beauty, it can stimulate the senses with wonderful perfume, the soft touch of the petals or the rasping pain from a thorn. It touches our emotions, signifies love and appears in some of our finest poetry. How can a simple flower live up to this expectation? The rose that Rolls-Royce has commissioned makes easy work of the task. Observe the glory of the bloom. There can be few more enjoyable experiences, thanks to the unending generosity and diversity of nature captured in one single rose.”
For the designers of Ayad’s Phantom, this specific rose was an important inspiration. “The rose had to embody Rolls-Royce’s poise, elegance and allure,” says Rolls-Royce Bespoke Designer Sina-Maria Eggl. “The result was a very pure, delicate but voluminous white flower: sensual, but strong in presence, with an alluring aroma and extra winter durability.”
Ayad’s family played a creative role; his wife designed the umbrellas that sit inside the doors, while one of his daughters, Magnolia, helped decide the colours of the Phantom’s bodywork. The Peacock Blue colour that she chose is based on the blue markings of
a peacock butterfly. It is punctuated with a Charles Blue twinned-coachline that intertwines organically like the stem of a rose, combining to introduce the rose motif, an indication of both the colours and the treatment within. The wheels echo the design and are embellished with a twinned pinstripe, also in Charles Blue.
On opening the coach doors, one first encounters the embroidery on the inside of the rear doors, but it is not until entering the rear cabin that one fully encounters the extraordinary extent of the satin stitch creation. The Phantom Rose is illustrated in varying stages of maturity, from bud to full bloom, in an asymmetrical design that appears to grow across the roof lining from the rear of the car. The marque’s fabled starlight headliner illuminates the scene as the roses are interspersed with individually placed fibre-optic lights.
In the rear compartment, the seating adopts the inverted colour-way of the exterior as sumptuous Charles Blue leather is accented with Peacock Blue piping. From here, one can view the “Gallery” space on the Phantom’s dashboard, created as a centrepiece of the interior, on which stems of embroidered roses climb through the glass-fronted fascia.
The Rose Phantom is just one of many examples of remarkable, unique vehicles designed by Rolls-Royce’s Bespoke team. “Hardly any car leaves the company without being customized to some degree,” says Torsten. “Around 95 per cent are personalized and we have seen an increase every year. Nobody who is shopping in high-end luxuries is interested in taking something from the shelf. They want to commission their own piece.”
And, perhaps contrary to the stereotype of the Rolls-Royce owner, the marque’s clientele is getting younger. “The average age of our customers is 43, that means for every 60-year-old buyer there is a buyer who is 20,” he says. “The ultra-high net worth group is getting younger and younger because of technology making so many smart kids a fortune early in life.”
Some owners demand built-in champagne fridges, TVs or climate-controlled humidors for their cigars. Others want the ceiling of the vehicle studded with more than a thousand tiny LED lights to replicate the night sky, complete with shooting stars.
One customer in Japan requested a maritime-themed Dawn, featuring open-pore teak panelling reminiscent of a yacht’s deck and a high-tech fibre to resemble the sails. Another commissioned the Falcon Wraith, with the dramatic image of a peregrine falcon intricately embroidered on the interior using 250,000 stitches. And the Tranquility Phantom, commissioned by another client, features shavings of a meteorite that fell to earth in 1906.
One patron even paid an extra £250,000 for a Rolls-Royce Ghost to be sprayed in paint containing 1,000 crushed diamonds, doubling the price of the car. The paint was named Diamond Stardust and the marque is keeping a spare tin of it in a safe at Goodwood in case the owner’s car gets pranged.
“I have seen garages with over 100 cars,” says Torsten. “For many of our clients, they have garages for their cars like we have wardrobes for our clothes. For every occasion and for every purpose they have the right car.”