Currently reading: Analysis: How Rolls-Royce is redefining luxury design
Rolls-Royce Bespoke chief designer Alex Innes says that its clients "want a new type of luxury, with more purity"

The coronavirus pandemic has presented major challenges to the whole car industry. And while the luxury end of the market has been somewhat insulated from the biggest difficulties caused by factory and showroom closures, companies operating in that sphere have still had to reinvent how they work – and it’s set to change the design focus of ultra-luxury cars.

Rolls-Royce’s Bespoke division is considered, according to chief designer Alex Innes, to be “the apex of the pinnacle”. The most prominent example of its work is the one-off Sweptail of 2017, but the division also produces highly customised versions of the Rolls-Royce Phantom, Rolls-Royce Ghost, Rolls-Royce Wraith and Rolls-Royce Dawn.

Innes and the design team work directly with ultra-wealthy customers to produce one-off designs to exacting standards.

1 Rolls royce sweptail static rear

Much of that work is done face to face, either at Rolls-Royce’s Goodwood base or with the designers travelling to meet customers, so the lockdown has forced the team to find new ways of working.

“It has been challenging, but the output hasn’t dipped from our studio,” said Innes. “We’re used to travelling a lot for work to meet with clients, so we’re used to contributing remotely.

“With our Bespoke process, we take the time to really get to know customers before we put anything into action and work directly with them in the same way you can design a house with an architect.

“Not being able to meet clients in person has been challenging, but we’ve worked around it and we’ve continued to be in near-constant dialogue with them.

“The benefit the lockdown has afforded us is the currency of time to contemplate and reflect – and we’ve noticed a similar trend with our clients. They’ve had more time to really think and engage with the coachbuild process. I’ve had lots of video chats with them to obsess over little details.”


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2 Rolls royce ghost bespoke detail

Innes said that focus on little details is an acceleration of ongoing changes in the bespoke luxury market.

He said: “There has been a slight change in attitude and behaviour, building on a trend we’ve recognised for some time but which has accelerated since the coronavirus. We’ve termed it ‘post-opulence’: clients in the wider luxury sphere are coming to question the substance of things and what is necessary.

“There’s a shifting attitude to cars, which is reflected in a shift to a more minimalist aesthetic. Clients don’t want the opulence and ornateness of yesterday: they want a new type of luxury, with more purity. It’s about real attention to detail, towards higher and more exacting standards.”

Innes says the changing focus isn’t reflected in a move to specific designs or materials but in a push to ensure designs have “substance” rather than simply showcase one’s wealth.

“A Rolls-Royce represents a canvas for clients to project their personality and image,” he explained. “Our job at Bespoke is to shape and capture that. Because each customer is different, it’s hard to name a particular style or trend; it’s more about the attention to details.

“We’re humbled by the gravitas our clients, even those who seem to have it all, feel about ordering a Rolls-Royce. They obsess over the details and dedicate time in pursuit of that. And for many clients, time is the most pressing commodity that they have.”

While the Bespoke process is tailored, Innes said it “gives a perspective” that feeds into the future designs of Rolls-Royce’s main model lines.


Rolls-Royce bespoke Sweptail takes to Goodwood hillclimb 

Rolls-Royce Dawn drive: chasing the northern lights 

Rolls-Royce to be first car firm to resume UK production 

New 2020 Rolls-Royce Ghost hits the Nurburgring

James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport,, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets. 

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QuestionEverything 15 July 2020

Buick Riviera

The Sweptail rear looks like an early 70's Buick Riviera to me. It's not a good look.
typos1 30 June 2020

What was the point of this

What was the point of this article ? This has been an advertising feature on behalf of Rolls Royce cars (in a journal that none of our customers read).

Just Saying 30 June 2020


Come on guys!
Could not disagree with you more.
But, being a decent chap, I respect your views.
You're just wrong!