As competition for the luxury fashion shopper increases exponentially — not just from other brands but from spending on vacations, dining out and more — companies are adopting a new mantra to lure the high-spending consumer: It’s all about personalization and quality service.
Whether it’s monogramming, being able to order a limited-edition style, personal shoppers or, in the case of couture, literally flying the collection to the countries of big spenders, brands are going out of their way to make customers feel like they are important and are buying something just for them. And for how to do that best, fashion firms should look to the auto industry.
Car companies from Mercedes-Benz to Bentley, Jaguar to Aston Martin have been offering consumers the ability to personalize their ultra-expensive autos for years. After all, James Bond didn’t get his Aston-Martin DB5 with ejector seat and machine guns off the shelf.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars offers personalization through its Bespoke Design program. The company encourages buyers to “express yourself with our Bespoke service,” which is designed “to help you create your own unique Rolls‑Royce; it’s time to set your own standard of style.” The service can be used for personalizing door handles, dashboard dials and tread-plates, among other features.
Michelle Lusby is the color and materials designer at the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Design Team, which she joined in 2014. Lusby earned a first class honors degree in interior textiles and surface design from the University of Plymouth. At Rolls-Royce, she is responsible for designing the exterior paint and leather colors in addition to the interior textures, while also “selecting colors and trims which will complement each other,” the company noted.
Here, Lusby discusses with WWD her inspirations as well as the similarities between fashion design and automobile design.
WWD: What drew you to the auto design industry and, more specifically, to Rolls-Royce Motor Cars?
Michelle Lusby: I always knew that I wanted to be a designer, but was unsure which industry interested me the most. I have loved textiles since a young age; not only fabrics but different materials such as leather and metal. After graduating, I worked in the textile design business. I did a lot of contracted work with auto manufacturers and I quickly became enthralled with what “could be” for design within the auto industry.
Once I began looking at new opportunities, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars was a no-brainer. It’s the pinnacle brand in the industry, working with the most demanding luxury consumers in the world, and naturally they were already working with unique materials and designs as the core of their brand. When every single motor car is handcrafted and Bespoke commissioned, a designer has the opportunity to work with a mix of modern and traditional materials in new ways. This is what excites me most about working with Rolls-Royce.
WWD: Many unique materials are used in the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Serenity Phantom. Where do you find your inspiration for projects such as this?
M.L.: A big and very important part of my job is to travel and search for inspiration. Our team is constantly on the move, searching for the latest trends in new materials at exhibitions, art galleries and markets. If you look at the Phantom Serenity, our inspiration blossomed from a single piece of silk we discovered with an intricate floral design. The theme of the vehicle evolved around the image of a serene Japanese garden. We worked to apply the silk within the interior and created 3-D elements including unique luxurious hand-painted and hand-embroidered cherry blossoms. The rear compartment of this vehicle is designed to provide the owner with a serene, cocooning environment — hence the genesis of the name, Serenity.
WWD: How do you define Bespoke?
M.L.: Bespoke is Rolls-Royce. Rolls-Royce is about the experience. The design process is a journey for both the designer as well as the customer. The process is about ensuring that they get precisely the unique motor car they desire. The last thing a Rolls-Royce owner wants is to pull up to a party and see another car that looks the same. Bespoke is the exclusivity of our owners’ individuality and creativity.
WWD: There are so many similarities between automotive design and fashion design, how do you see the two industries overlapping?
M.L.: Fashion is at the forefront of trends, colors, materials and patterns in the design industry. I look to fashion trends for inspiration that impacts the colors and materials I use while designing Rolls-Royce motor cars. Fashion designers design a garment to fit the body; I design the materials and texture to fit the interior of a car. For us, although we look at current trends in fashion, we also keep in mind the core Rolls-Royce philosophy – to create a timeless design. We are creating classic, customized luxury items that will be passed down from generation to generation.
WWD: How were fashion design elements brought to life through the “Wraith Inspired by Fashion” car model?
M.L.: Black and white were used at the foundation of our design because of their iconic feel in the fashion industry. This created a completely timeless design, while paying homage to great designers such as Karl Lagerfeld and staple pieces such as the Little Black Dress. Unique sewing techniques were used on parts of this Wraith from the two-toned steering wheel to the leather door accents. These details reflect techniques that you would find in the lining of a men’s suit or a haute couture dress. Many of our craftspeople working at the home of Rolls-Royce have tailoring backgrounds, so they were able to apply their expert knowledge while working on the Fashion Wraith.
WWD: What trends are you starting to see in the auto industry from a design/textile standpoint?
M.L.: I am most excited about the growing interest in textured materials. Unique and textured materials are more than just an element of design; they have really transitioned to be at the forefront. The ability to change the feel and ambiance of an interior just by changing its material and textural element is exciting.