The leather in a Rolls-Royce motor car is unlike any other. It is the finest in the world. The bulls give our craftspeople the most exquisite material to work with. And it is in the hands of these artisans that the real magic happens.
THE ART OF LEATHER
The superior finish of Rolls-Royce leather begins with the hides from which it comes. The cows live freely – and their welfare is fundamental to the quality of their hides. Our carefully selected farmers understand this and genuinely care about the leather that comes from the cows they raise for food.
Most hides come from the Simmental breed. Not only do these larger cattle give bigger hides, but they are also raised in a moist region with a temperate climate. This makes a big difference to the hide, as their skin doesn’t dry out. The lush grass they feed on has a direct effect on their skin. Brian Staite, General Manager of the Leathershop, explains: ‘The hide of a cow is the same as our skin. If you don’t drink enough fluid, eat junk food and lie in the sun all day, your skin will suffer.” From the outset, quality is the main motivation.
Each hide is rigorously scrutinised for imperfections and only the finest make it to Goodwood. “We’re talking no better than one in 100 hides. It is a very, very selective process from the beginning,” adds Staite.
When it takes 12 of these A-grade hides to upholster one of our motor cars, each panel must live up to Rolls-Royce’s extreme standards.
Intensive testing ensures our hides deliver long-lasting quality. Vicky Sherratt, Bespoke Interior Leather Trim Planner, explains one part of the process. “Inside a special temperature-controlled chamber, it is chilled to minus 10 degrees and then rapidly heated to 100 degrees, and then back down to minus 10. This is carried out constantly, 24 hours a day, for 10 days. If it survives this test, we are confident it meets Rolls-Royce standards.”
And when you slide into one of our motor cars you may notice that the leather on the seats never squeaks. Which is no coincidence. Our leather has a surface finish unlike any other car or upholstery leather. We treat it so you can sit back without a sound.
To colour the leather, we’ve perfected a unique technique. The hides are tumbled with pigment, which means the skins are coloured all the way through and help the leather to age beautifully. We can create any shade of leather for our customers, as Staite explains. “Customers can have exactly the tone and finish they want, and a colour matched to whatever they choose.”
Which is not as straightforward as it might sound: “If you have a vase you want to match, we have to consider how it looks from different angles and in different lights, as the colour may change depending on where it is viewed from.”
Our Leathershop team must also ensure that in perfecting a particular shade, the leather retains its leather look and feel. Staite describes the challenges that brings: “It must feel like you are sitting on leather, and not feel over-processed just to generate the colour – that’s not what we want. You are buying a Rolls-Royce motor car with the Rolls-Royce seal – the textures, the softness, that unique recipe – yet still retaining the integrity of the new colour.”
Inside our motor cars, our Embroidery Specialists are able to customise the leather with stitching, monograms and images – from the headrests to the door panels. Whatever your imagination desires. Josh Liles, Bespoke Embroidery Specialist responsible for some of the intricate designs seen inside our Bespoke motor cars, explains: “We put a lot of thought into every single stitch to get it perfect. That’s what separates normal embroidery from Rolls-Royce embroidery.”
Revealing the level of effort involved in the Bespoke Mysore Ghost Extended Wheelbase, Liles describes: “For the tiger on the leather headrests, we wanted to try to create a 3D effect, rather than a flat image. So we did a lot of development with the direction of the stitching. The result is stunning – as you move round, the light reflects off the embroidery in different ways. So when the light bounces off the tiger’s head and nose, the rest remains shaded.” Each tiger headrest took 25,000 stitches to create.
This talented team applies its skills to countless luxury materials, from alligator and ostrich skin, to the finest of silks. Phantom Serenity and its breathtaking silk interior introduced a completely new level of individualised luxury. Staite explains: “It was the most challenging material we’ve ever worked with, by a huge margin. New technical skills had to be learned, and endless rounds of experiments carried out. It was a defining moment for us – now the team don’t believe there is anything they cannot do.”
Looking ahead, Staite continues: “At Rolls-Royce we lead, not follow. We are always innovating. We don’t just realise what the Design team creates – we are trying to offer them, and our customers, things they don’t know are technically possible yet. Our mantra is to challenge and be challenged.”
It is the tireless dedication and endless skill of these talented craftspeople, combined with the finest leather in the world, that helps make the interiors of Rolls-Royce motor cars so legendary.
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Patience. Precision. Perfection.
Our specialists handpick and craft every single piece of wood used in a Rolls-Royce motor car. We go inside the Woodshop and discover the story behind the world’s finest marquetry.