What is luxury? Bentley design director discusses

The concept of luxury has evolved to include a much more complex set of values. Time, authenticity, legacy, access, resource, journey, skills and memory – these are just some of the concepts joining the more classic terms associated with luxury. And going forward, when the car becomes essentially a high-tech gadget in the age of autonomous driving, what will define true luxury?

In the first of our interviews with some of the leading creatives, Stefan Sielaff, Bentley Motors design director, offers his thoughts on the subject in light of the marque’s latest product, the Bentayga. This is Bentley’s first venture into the sports-utility sector, promising to be the most powerful, sumptuous and exclusive sports utility car ever built.

Design Talks. What will luxury be in the future?

Stefan Sielaff. This is a philosophical question. It means, amongst other things, time and the freedom to do what you want to do. In regards to car design it means creating something unique for the customer. The exterior design has to be clear enough to give the customer a good feeling; the design has to transport this sense of luxury… almost like a gift. This can be achieved through the value of the brand but also through details that show that this isn’t a ‘normal’ product but something expressive, outstanding, and even radical.

I feel interior materials will increasingly play a big role in conveying luxury. Luxury design doesn’t mean filling the car with jewellery though, but to create a wonderful piece of art and this can be conveyed through the love and attention given by its creators. The customer needs to feel this love. They are, after all, paying for the skills and knowhow of a company like Bentley.

DT. How do you see Bentley responding to this?

SS. At Bentley we have the ability to create tailor-made interiors. I see us extending this service in the future to offer small batch, highly individual cars for specific customers. Our clients will want smaller batches of products, limited-edition cars with, say, serial numbers so they become collector’s items. The products need to be exclusive so our clients feel they belong to a unique club.

DT. How will this fit into the autonomous car of the future?

SS. Technology is an enabler for us designers allowing for endless possibilities to create autonomous, stress-free driving. With cars such as the Bentayga our customers expect a high degree of technology. Yet technology must never overwhelm them – it is there to make driving safer, easier.

We joke that we invented the driverless car, as our cars are mainly chauffer-driven. For the future I see some kind of avatar-chauffer, an invisible butler who can organise the customer’s time whilst driving, arranging their meetings and booking restaurants.

Nargess Banks

Read our interview on the subject of modern luxury and car design here.

Read more about the Bentayga in our report for Wallpaper*.

Read our previous articles on Bentley.

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