The tailoring segment of car buying can be mind-numbingly bland; finger your paint, pick your hue of cloth or hide, and a couple weeks later you’ve got a product that’s kinda-sorta got your name all over it. Shell out for something like a Bentley however, and the ala carte menu gets decisively tastier. After whipping the brand’s new V8-powered Continental GT for Issue #52, Mass Appeal’s Willie G. sat down to get a shade more personal with the winged-B’s Peter Cullem-Kenyon.
As Design Manager of the Color & Trim division, it’s Pete’s job to ensure that each and every coach out of the Crewe, England assembly plant gets three-dimensional on your ass. Catering to a market where bespoke is pretty much the norm, he gives us insight into the present and future of what’s been dubbed the ‘finishing touch’ department of one of the world’s most renowned luxury automobile makers.
Willie G: Pete, tell us what inspires a color and trim guy to execute on a car.
Peter: It’s really about adding as much quality and craftsmanship to the product as we can inject. We take inspiration from interior design, architecture, product and furniture design. Shoes are actually really great to be inspired by, as they’re typically a small product containing an incredible amount of detail. We’re like sponges just soaking up everything around us.
Willie G: But you’re also tasked to satisfy those customers who’ve been ‘inspired’ themselves, right? Can you tell us about some of the crazier requests?
Peter: Well we once did a lime green Flying Spur for an Italian interior designer. I believe it was to match elements in his kitchen. That, in turn, reminds me of a pale baby blue car we created to match a KitchenAid blender the customer had. Though one of our most talked about instances comes from our bespoke color ‘Sequin Blue’ which was literally done to match a sequin off the dress of a customer’s spouse.
Willie G: Have there been any special orders that have made you cringe as a designer?
Peter: (Laughs) Well you have to remember in this business that if you don’t do it, someone else will. For instance we’ve all seen Paris Hilton’s pink GT with the diamantes all over the shifter, right? There’s many a customhouse that will do that sort of work for you – as her car illustrates – but few do it to the level that Bentley can.
Willie G: And where is that next level going, well, next?
Peter: In regards to the upcoming SUV, our team was brought onboard before sketches even began. That was thrilling because we had the opportunity to define something that had never actually existed. We took something simple like the floormats and made them reversible; rugged saddle leather on one side, then a refined silky finish on the other.
It sounds simplistic, but they really set the tone for what the vehicle is all about. We also visited a British gun maker, Holland & Holland, and ended up applying one of their rifle stock etching techniques to the truck’s steering wheel.
That’s perhaps my favorite part of this job; combining traditional craftsmanship with modern technology and ending up with one cohesive finished product. It really doesn’t get any better!