Rolls-Royce celebrates the master craftswomen driving the marque’s bespoke luxury
The British luxury car brand celebrates its female creatives for International Women’s Day 2023
Rolls-Royce is best known for the highly bespoke and creative craftmanship that underpins every one of its luxury vehicles, and in recognition of International Women’s Day on 8 March, the historic British marque is celebrating the talented women behind the brand’s inimitable reputation.
At Rolls-Royce’s inspiring, eco-friendly campus just outside of Chichester – designed by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw – we met several of the brand’s female artisans during an all-access factory tour. Clean, quiet and calm are the words that spring to mind during the tour, as employees go about assembling some of the day’s most impressive range of luxury cars.
We begin in the exterior surface centre with bespoke planner Sarah Denny and Chloe Dowsett, coach line associate, who showcase some of the many exterior paint recipes and hand-painted coach line details that finish the vehicles. The colours, we discover, can be inspired by anything from clothing, watch straps, flowers and, on one occasion, an Australian tree frog.
“We’re not just creating a car, we’re creating new design artefacts that can last the rest of time,” says Sarah. “It’s an honour to be part of the process, because it’s the first step for customers.”
On the factory floor, we spot an electrical station where Rolls-Royce’s famous constellation headliner is being meticulously assembled by hand. The stars that adorn the interior top of each Rolls-Royce car are a replica of the night sky over Goodwood on 1 January 2022 – when the first Phantom was manufactured at the then-brand new plant.
We move to the interior trim department where bespoke developer Daisy Hopgood and coachbuild associate Natalia showcase the variety of specialist detailing that customers can choose. Daisy, who began her career at Rolls-Royce in the sewing line five years ago, and now specialises in embroidery for bespoke builds, credits her manager for always championing and pushing the team-members to upskill and advance within the company.
“I have always been interested in textiles, embroidery, and crafts. I studied Textile Design, focusing on digital print and after completing my studies, I started working at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, where I further developed my skill set in sewing. I then progressed to Bespoke embroidery and development,” she says.
“The Bespoke projects I am currently working on involve meticulous attention to detail and allow me to explore my passion for intricate design and embroidery. It is always highly rewarding and remarkable to see a project progress and a commission come to life.
“When I first applied [at Rolls-Royce] I didn’t think I would have the ability or opportunity to be so creative, but then I came to bespoke and am always learning more and more,” she says. “Our manager Vicky pushes us, and puts us forward for new training to always improve our skills so that we can offer more to our customers. It’s really empowering.”
In the interior surface centre – lovingly referred to as the ‘old wood shop’ – bespoke lacquer specialist Allie Knight and bespoke wood specialist Audrey Fasquelle take us through some of the incredible and intricate traditional crafts (like marquetry) that are available to customers.
“I joined Rolls-Royce nearly nine years ago, as apprentice in the Exterior Surface Centre. I qualified as an automotive paint sprayer and body work technician in 2017,” she says.
“The opportunities that working at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars have offered have been incredible. I have had the opportunity to get involved in many interesting projects, including designing, and creating a highly Bespoke Phantom bonnet, inspired by the 300,000 English honeybees that forage the site, for an internal competition. This creation was then showcased at London Craft Week in 2021, an event which celebrates the pinnacle of British craftsmanship. I am now working in the Interior Surface Centre, finessing my skillset and passion for craftsmanship.”
Allie says that the key to the brand’s energy comes from the challenges presented by their customers: “When it comes to creating a bespoke car, our customers will often throw something at us that we would never have expected – and that gives us all the chance to put our heads together, across exterior and interior, to achieve their dream. It’s really great fun to be able to play around with new challenges.”