The Billionaire’s Ceramic Rolls-Royce

by Robert Stedman
Photos courtesy of Rolls-Royce
26 Oct 2021

Getting up close and personal with the custom Rolls-Royce Phantom Oribe

Rolls-Royce is a legendry car maker that is synonymous with luxury, elegance, style, and comfort. A short while back, the company teamed up with renowned French luxury brand Hermès to create a very special one-off motorcar. 

The result of this collaboration was the Rolls-Royce Phantom Oribe: A custom creation for the Japanese entrepreneur, art collector, and supercar cognoscente, Yusaku Maezawa. The idea was to build a type of ‘land jet’ that provides a driving experience and a look that’s similar to what’s experienced in private air travel.

Yusaku Maezawa

Yusaku Maezawa was born in 1975 and is used to making headlines. For instance, he has insisted that he will be the first space passenger to fly to the moon no matter the cost. The founder of Zozotown, an online fashion marketplace for Japanese and Western fashion brands, Maezawa has an estimated net worth of more than US$3 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

The exterior and interior of this unique Phantom was designed and handcrafted together with bespoke specialists from Rolls-Royce and Hermès, using materials, techniques, and traditional know-how from both the carmaker and the fashion house.

The car's sophisticated two-tone exterior replicates the characteristic green and cream glazes used on antique Japanese Oribe ware, of which Maezawa is a well-known collector. The upper part of the luxurious Phantom is finished in MZ Oribe Green, a fully custom color created exclusively for the client. And in an unusual move, Rolls-Royce has also provided the coating for use on the client’s private jet. It was Maezawa who conceived the idea of having matched land and air vehicles. Developed over many months by specialists in the Roll-Royce Surface Finish Centre at Goodwood, the coating simulates the lustrous, deep-green glaze that is often found on these 16th century Oribe ceramics. The cream-white lower section of the vehicle beautifully compliments the darker green above the shadow line.

The Oribe-inspired colors harmoniously continue in the interior, created through a complete collaboration between Hermès designers and craftspeople in Paris, and the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Collective of designers, engineers, and craftspeople at Goodwood, in West Sussex. Together, they applied their shared expertise and creativity to ensure that every individual component of the vehicle embodies the finest traditions that both companies are famous for.

(Related: This Rolls-Royce car is perfect in its simplicity)

The interior of the Phantom is finished predominantly in what seems like acres of Hermès Enea Green leather. Accents of this leather were also used on the steering wheel, duchess handles, gear selector, and the rotary controls for the cabin’s climate settings.

The supple leather flows around the upper instrument panel, interior pillars and dashboard shelf. Still more of this expensive green hide is applied to less visible areas including the glove box, champagne cooler, as well as luggage and decanter compartments.

In an acknowledgement of the project's truly collaborative nature, the glove compartment lid is embossed with the signature “Habillé par Hermès Paris,” which roughly translates to “Dressed by Hermès Paris.” Only one other motorcar has used this moniker and that was the Bugatti Chiron supercar. When you consider that an Hermès Birkin bag costs anywhere from $9,000 to $500,000, the Phantom Oribe is as luxurious and outrageously ostentatious as a Rolls-Royce motorcar can get.

The leather also gets subtle, yet contrasting Hermès piping around the headrests, cushions and calf supports at the rear seats, while soft Seashell White accents and matching lamb’s wool floor carpets create a sense of light and space throughout the cabin of the Phantom.

The interior is also adorned with examples of Rolls-Royce Bespoke design and handcraftsmanship. For example, the wood speaker frets that are formed by meticulously perforating the open pore Royal Walnut veneer applied to the doors helps create seamless haptics. The walnut is additionally applied to the center and rear consoles and picnic table backs. And in another first for Rolls-Royce, the interior features the famous Hermès ‘Toile H’ canvas on the door armrests, center and rear consoles, and, most notably, the Phantom’s headliner.

Using its expertise in fine leathers, Hermès brings its distinctive equestrian heritage and craftsmanship to the car, with the leather upholstery created using stitching and edge-painting techniques originally employed by master saddler makers. For Phantom’s Gallery, a feature unique to Rolls-Royce, that runs the length of the motor car’s fascia (more commonly known as the dashboard), Hermès commissioned an artwork based on a design by the celebrated French artist and illustrator Pierre Péron who created many of the House's most famous silk scarves. The work, inspired by the famous Hermès horse motif, is hand-painted directly on the luxurious walnut dash with a glass panel placed in front of the artwork for protection.

Torsten Müller-Ötvös, chief executive officer, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars observed that, “This magnificent expression of our pinnacle product represents a landmark for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, bringing together two houses with more than three centuries’ combined experience and heritage. It is the result of a deep, genuine collaboration between the Houses of Rolls-Royce and Hermès, in which designers, materials specialists and skilled craftspeople worked side by side to create a truly one-of-a-kind Phantom.

“It has been an extraordinary privilege to unite on such a creatively challenging, technically demanding commission and bring our client’s remarkable vision so beautifully to life.”

Given how beautifully the Oribe turned out, and the fact it seems like everyone associated with the project, from the customer to the craftsmen enjoyed the experience and were proud of the joint effort, it is an easy bet that there will be more collaboration between Rolls-Royce and Hermès, and even other fashion houses in the near future.

If you're wondering about how much the Oribe costs, it comes down to one of those axioms that, ‘If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it’. Rolls-Royce naturally declined to reveal the amount, but given that a normal ‘stock’ Phantom starts at around US$550,000 (nearly double that in Singapore), it’s easy to speculate that the price might be three times that figure.

But, hey, if you’re rich enough to fly to the moon, a luxury motorcar won’t be that much of a bother. Who knows, the billionaire might even ask Rolls-Royce to give Space-X the paint for the rocket ship.