Interview: Giles Taylor, Former Design Director at Rolls-Royce

We discuss the new Phantom and what luxury means to car-buyers

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Rolls-Royce has long been associated with luxury, but in the ever-evolving world of auto, that concept is changing too. While quality materials and craftsmanship remain significant factors, many ideas surrounding opulence and decadence have become outdated—replaced with functionality and tech-savvy features. During a recent test drive in Europe’s magic triangle, we got behind the wheel of the new Rolls-Royce Phantom and spoke with Giles Taylor (the brand’s recently-departed Design Director) to discuss the car’s details and what luxury means in the auto world today.

Blending brand heritage, craft, luxury and modernity is a tricky balance—one that Taylor understands inherently. “My job,” he begins, “is to love and respect the tradition of the brand, while transforming the feel of the Rolls Royce—interior and exterior—into a totally new modern domain.” He explains that conceptually, of course, car design teams need to contemplate design but also the ways in which customers enjoy their vehicles. Further though, with a brand like Roll-Royce, “You get into this other area of art that I think—standing by the Phantom…is the closest thing we’ve done to getting into that artistic world.” This might seem lofty at first, but when any car enthusiast looks at the Phantom’s new dash, the artistic boundaries of car design are certainly being pushed. Taylor says about the new dash “Right down to the little central information display, there is a very nice and sort of fine and elegant ballet.” Those fine details are the things that Peterson fights for in the design process—and it’s for the client, not just aesthetics. “It’s about the small, simple things in design,” he says, “that will delight individuals who’ll go with the extra dollar, the extra mile, to enjoy life on the finer side.”

In terms of materials, we found that many of the details in the Phantom could have easily been (and some were suspected to potentially be) plastic, but nothing in the car is. That, Taylor says, is about an appreciation of luxury, “That’s just enjoying the materials, and enjoying the fact that they are substantially more noble than the rest.” Of course, luxury is also based in products created specifically for individuals, and the Phantom encourages owners to commission one that suits their taste. It can be highly bespoke using materials including feathers, wood, leather, silk and more. It’s also about the experience, says Taylor. The main goal is always to “do something even more extraordinary,” he says.

While he’s confident that the Phantom experience—from the beginning of the customization process to finally getting behind the wheel—will be incredibly special, Taylor isn’t done yet. He says, “Any designer that’s satisfied with his last product probably ain’t gonna have these sort of ambitions to do something better next time.”

Images courtesy of Rolls-Royce