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Meet the car that Rolls-Royce calls the "most ambitious, singular and highly bespoke Phantom" ever created

The Phantom Syntopia goes high-fashion; we quickly find ourselves out of our depth

Published: 08 Mar 2023

This, as the headline likely already spelled out pretty well, is what Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös calls the “most ambitious, singular and highly bespoke Phantom we have ever created”. For a company that’s rather made a name for itself by catering to the most ambitious and singular whims its customers can dream up, that’s saying something. 

Which is helpful, because we have absolutely no idea what the owner is intending to say with this design, what the design says about the owner who commissioned it, or indeed what the luminary of ladies’ haute couture behind it is saying at all.

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“I was inspired by the concept of ‘Weaving Water’ and transformed the sense of being in movement into an immersive experience of fluidity,” says fancy fashion designer Iris van Herpen. 

"I wanted this to become a state-of-the-art experience being overwhelmed by the forces of nature." 

Well, we’d probably just try to learn to surf if we wanted that experience, but then we’re clearly not even moving in the same social circles as the target buyer. 

What we do know is that it took some four years of “continuous development” to create the Rolls-Royce Phantom Syntopia’s complex, three-dimensional headliner sculpture to a standard that both Rolls's 'Bespoke Collective' and van Herpen were happy with. Presumably the customer too, but we’d be drowning in the depths of pure conjecture trying to answer that one. 

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In any case, and even without fully understanding the process, motivation behind, or indeed appeal of concepts like biomimicry and ‘Weaving Water’, it’s easy to understand the esteem in which van Herpen is held by the people who do. For the rest of us, it’s likely simplest to say that Iris is the kind of designer whose work ends up in the Museum of Modern Art, and leave it at that. 

The numbers involved here seem to make a virtue of suffering: the single piece of leather for the headliner was selected from 1,000 hides as the most beautiful and unmarred. There are 162 ‘petals’, woven from glass into a delicate, sheer fabric, which took 300 hours to make and attach. The headliner took 700 hours to make, the ‘gallery’ on the dashboard another 60, and figuring out how to get the paint just so took 3,000 hours of testing and validation. The answer was to start with a base of pure black, overlaid with mirror-like pigment in the clearcoat that reflects in gold, magenta, purple and blue depending on the angle from which it’s viewed. 

Considering the vast number of hours that have gone into it, it’s perhaps unsurprising that it will only arrive at its new owner’s... we’re presuming estate, or perhaps lair, in May. And, being a bespoke Roller, it’s even less of a shock to find it’s a one-off, “never to be replicated.” After all, it’s not like Rolls-Royce can keep trotting out its “most ambitious, singular and highly bespoke Phantom” every other week, is it? 

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