I bonded with Giles Taylor, Rolls-Royce’s design director, because we both love Yves Saint Laurent. The brand, sure, but more than man behind the brand; that Christian Dior chose 21-year-old Yves Saint Laurent as his successor to run the fabulous Dior fashion house speaks volumes about YSL’s unparalleled talents. During the North American debut of the Rolls-Royce’s 103EX concept, Taylor and I talked about fashion and the like, lingering just outside of the 103EX’s mind-bogglingly beautiful cabin. Eventually Taylor invited me to take a seat next to him on the cream-colored, silk-trimmed, floating furniture piece that is this fully autonomous concept’s only seating area.
No other members of the media were able to sit in this amazing mobile space, so I felt obligated to ask Taylor a few questions about how he and his team approached such a strange concept — creating a living room inside of a car of the future. Taylor says he wanted “a private haven … an oasis of calm” that helped well-off buyers relax and escape everyday stresses. Pop-up head restraints behind the couch let you recline and lay back, sort of like the seats in business class. The bright-white, high-pile carpeting is soft and cushy and so clean that you’re terrified to put your feet on it. Simple treatments of wool and wood cover almost every non-functional surface. “You can choose bamboo if you like your feng shui, or Macassar as this is,” says Taylor. Up front a full-length OLED screen lets you watch a movie or the stock ticker. “That is also a portal to talk to Eleanor,” says Taylor, who believes that artificial intelligence systems, like Eleanor, will be in cars by 2040.
“The girl that posed for the Spirit of Ecstasy back in 1910, Eleanor, we’ve brought her into this car. You can tell her where you want to go, and she’ll take you there and pick you up. She attends to your every wish. She probably learns about you all the time. She learns what you like, where you want to go, what tie you should be wearing — she’ll tell you.” I point to the analog clock and ask Taylor why they didn’t choose something different, more innovative. “Because the ultimate luxury in anybody’s life is time,” he says. That’s a lot of wild tech for one car, but the interior of the 103EX isn’t overwhelming. It’s surprisingly simple, clean, spacious, and pure. “We’re trying to declutter the automotive cliché, in and out,” says Taylor. “There’s an ultimate reason to be in this car, to travel in this car. It’s how you feel in this space. I like the ease of social interaction. You need to come with your wife, your partner, your whatever.”
I tell Taylor that I’m sure high-end autonomous cars like this will be seen more as fashion items than means of transportation and ask if he would ever consider teaming up with a fashion icon, like Chanel. “I’m always inspired by fashion,” he says.” Would we team up with a fashion brand? We don’t need to. We could have coach-built offshoots. This is a one-off car for a buyer in 2040, and what we’re offering that person is a coach-built service. We 3D-printed all the panels, and we have an amazing platform we can sell a customer … who wants to make a statement and arrive in an amazing sense of style. Why wouldn’t Rolls-Royce have the same brand perception as Chanel?”
I ask him if he agrees with me, that cars like Rolls-Royces could soon be seen as very expensive, very complicated, very lavish fashion accessories. “We will design a fashion item,” he says. “It has to be so. Why wouldn’t this car be part of a fashion show? Let’s say one time a year, in the future, Rolls-Royce has catwalk for its latest three-off suite of ten-million-dollar cars. Come sit and order one.”