Jennifer Meredith talks to Michelle Lusby, talented designer of Rolls-Royce’s third addition to the Wraith family, about crafting a coveted luxury aesthetic.
The Rolls-Royce brand, founded by Charles Stewart Rolls and Sir Frederick Henry Royce in 1906, is synonymous with the world of fashion and, more specifically, haute couture. Designers of the highest quality one-off garments share the same philosophy as the designers of the marque: to craft an exquisite luxury product that exudes style and substance to stand the test of time.
At the height of its success, Rolls-Royce had British blood running through its veins, producing cars for the wealthiest and most stylish members of society. Today, its models are produced by BMW, but its design headquarters are based in West Sussex, allowing the designs to retain the quintessential British aesthetic that makes them so covetable in the first place. The Wraith is no exception. In-keeping with the theme of silent-but-deadly apparition-like creatures, ‘wraith’ comes from the Scottish Gaelic meaning ‘spirit’. Its chassis is based on its predecessor, the Ghost, but its intricate details transform it into a completely separate entity.
Split into three categories of inspiration – music, film and fashion – the Wraith encompasses generations of popular culture from a high-end perspective, utilising lavish materials to create a vehicle that is timelessly stylish. An Arctic White and Black colour scheme lines the interior of the Wraith ‘Inspired by Fashion’, complemented by a fusion of fine silks, lacquered wood and buttery soft leather. Michelle Lusby, designer at the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Design Studio, states that the use of silk as a focal point stemmed from the inclusion of the material in a previous model: ‘we used silk in the Phantom Serenity, so we wanted to continue that aesthetic in the Wraith.’ Michelle explained that creating patterns for the silk to be used in the car was akin to ‘putting together a suit at a tailor’s shop,’ reinstating the theme of couture and one-off creations.
Having studied textiles at Somerset College, Michelle practised working with unique materials. This led her onto a career in London working in designer fashion and furniture, before Rolls-Royce snapped her up as part of their design team. Michelle states, ‘I had never considered working in automotive design, but it turns out it’s a perfect match for me. It’s fast-paced and there are always exciting projects and opportunities arising – it really is a dream job.’ Working in the Home of Rolls Royce, Michelle is able to see her design through from the drawing board to the finished product – an exciting prospect for any designer, but especially so if the end product is one of the most desirable luxury cars in the world.
Michelle discusses the Wraith with the enthusiasm of a couturier revealing their debut collection: ‘I love the whole car – the colours, the fabrics, the shape – it really is an amazing vehicle.’ Her favourite elements of the design revolve around the smaller details, such as the silk lining of the front and rear door pockets, the seamless two-tone steering wheel and the placement of the idiosyncratic Spirit of Ecstasy emblem at 55 degrees to complement the lines of the door, ‘Rolls-Royce is all about attention to detail and that’s reflected in the Wraith.’
The design process involved continuously consulting the manufacturing department, specifically the leather shop. Michelle explains, ‘the hurdles we encountered were mainly to do with ensuring that the design could be achieved when it came down to the manufacturing process. We were in constant communication with the onsite leather shop, working to achieve the right aesthetic in the finished product’.
The Wraith ‘Inspired by Fashion’ was launched at New York’s Pratt Institute in May 2015. According to Michelle, the car had a particularly good response in the creative environment of the launch: ‘we’ve had so much positive feedback. I’m really pleased to see that the Wraith has been well received.’ To mark the occasion of the creation of the Wraith, the brand devised a landmark shoot on the production line at the Home of Rolls-Royce in the South of England. The luxurious materials and distinctive features presented in the motor car were accentuated by fashion models, set against a backdrop of hand-made motor cars in the signature spotless white of the Wraith ‘Inspire by Fashion’.
In Michelle’s words, the Wraith is ‘dynamic, powerful and beautiful’; not only is it visually stunning, but it is also the highest powered car in the Rolls-Royce portfolio. Befitting sartorialists and luxury motoring enthusiasts alike, the car proves to be Rolls-Royce’s multi-faceted gem amongst a series of highly successful and widely coveted vehicles.