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Cultural phenomena

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars presents four magnificent Year of the Dragon Bespoke commissions to mark the Lunar New Year, which began on 10 February 2024.

14 February 2024

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Designed and hand-crafted at the Home of Rolls-Royce at Goodwood, these rare and beautiful Bespoke creations – three Phantom Extended models and one Cullinan – are a celebration of Chinese culture through Bespoke artistry. “Rolls-Royce Motor Cars leads the luxury sector in creating products inspired by international cultures and traditions, incorporating designs, motifs, materials and colours that resonate with and have real personal meaning for our clients,” said Jonathan Simms, Head of Bespoke, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

“These Bespoke creations, inspired by the Year of the Dragon in 2024, celebrate the international reach and influence of Chinese culture, which transcends national boundaries. Hence, these magnificent motor cars are destined for clients across three continents. These creations are both a powerful expression of our respect for Chinese culture and a contemporary, minimalist statement in line with trends we see among luxury consumers worldwide.”

The commissions draw inspiration from the dragon, an enduring and international symbol of power, success and prosperity. For the Year of the Dragon Bespoke commissions, the Rolls‑Royce Bespoke Collective created a modern, minimalistic expression of the dragon never previously seen in a Rolls-Royce, while remaining faithful and respectful to the original form.

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Reinterpreting an icon: the art of simplicity

Three of the Year of the Dragon Bespoke commissions include fascia panels adorned with highly contemporary artworks reinterpreting the dragon form. Individually hand-painted by one dedicated Rolls-Royce artist, each is a distinctive exploration of the colour red, which represents prosperity and good fortune in Chinese culture. Each of the three artworks is the result of over two weeks of detailed work.

To create this complex, three-dimensional motif, the artist used multiple hues of red, applied on top of each other in four individual stages. First, the initial outline of the symbol was painted using a feathering technique to create a flame effect, as if the dragon were suspended in fire, reflecting its festive, celebratory nature. This was followed by three further layers in darker shades of red, in which the artist added more details and depth.

Each of these colours was individually blended from different proportions of red, white, yellow and brown: this development process alone took three days to complete.

The four layers combine to create a 3D effect so realistic the artwork appears to have been carved into the fascia.

To achieve such fine detailing, lacquer was meticulously applied after each layer of paint. Lacquering is a delicate process, especially on a white background, since any imperfection – a stray particle of red paint, for example – would become instantly visible. The Rolls-Royce artist spotlessly cleaned and finely sanded every completed layer before each lacquering stage.

 

Interior suite: a minimalist approach

The dragon motif extends discreetly throughout the motor car’s interior. It is elegantly depicted in Phoenix Red stitching on the headrests of each of the four seats, providing a bold contrast with the seat leather, which is presented in either Black or White.

To create a dynamic appearance of the dragon, giving the impression of continuous movement, the artisans had to precisely align the stitch direction and adjust stitch density. Strategic variation in stitch angles along the tail enhanced the overall flow, creating a sense of fluidity in the design. Each embroidery comprises 5,449 stitches and took around 20 hours to complete.

In three of the commissions, the rear Piano Black picnic tables incorporate a minimalist representation of the circular Chinese zodiac calendar in inlaid stainless steel. The names of the animals representing each year are inscribed in traditional Chinese calligraphy, with the dragon highlighted in gold: the central dragon motif is also depicted in gold. For the fourth motor car, a Bespoke artwork featuring the dragon is inlaid in the Piano Black veneer in stainless steel.

The most dramatic expression of the mythical creature is the Bespoke Starlight Headliner, specially created for these commissions and the result of three months’ design and development work.

Above the driver and passenger seats, 677 individually placed fibre-optic stars form an abstract dragon motif, surrounded by a further 667 lights – positioning them all perfectly by hand took over 20 hours of work.

The motor car destined for the Rolls-Royce Private Office Shanghai features a unique expression of the Bespoke Starlight Headliner incorporating red ‘stars’ in a bold and contemporary reference to the symbolism of red in Chinese culture.

Each Phantom Extended commission is completed with a Gallery artwork, carefully protected behind an application of pure glass, that runs uninterrupted across the fascia. Crafted from carbon fibre, it evokes dynamism and motion, complementing the dragon artwork. The interior is completed with Bespoke lambswool carpets, perfectly colour-matched to the leather trim.

Exterior coachwork

The Bespoke designers created unique colourways for the different models: a duotone Cherry Red with Crystal finish over Selby Grey with a Crystal finish for the Cullinan; and a two-tone Silver and Cherry Red or monolithic Black with a Crystal finish for the Phantom Extended motor car commissions.

All four commissions feature a Bespoke coachline, hand-painted in Phoenix Red, that subtly incorporates a dragon motif. Each dragon is orientated to face right, which symbolically represents the East – the direction of the rising sun.

“Our aim was to create a modern interpretation of the dragon capturing its essence as a symbol of power,” said Rebecca Davies, Bespoke Designer, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

“The design evokes a sense of motion and energy, expressing the dragon as a driving force, all rendered with a depth and complexity to reflect its commanding spirit and presence.

“It was an inspirational journey for our Bespoke Collective to reinterpret such a significant icon; our Bespoke artisans added their own subtle dimension and character to the dragon expression, showcasing how a single design can be transformed through different mediums and craft techniques.”

 

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