Couturier Iris van Herpen Designed a New Model of Rolls-Royce, Complete With Pearlescent Paint and a Signature Scent


Luxury British automobile maker Rolls-Royce and Dutch couture designer Iris van Herpen have teamed up to custom-make a new model of Phantom. The special commission for the car brand’s Bespoke series was four years in the making.

Only one of the Phantom Syntopia will be made, destined for an unnamed client in the United States in May. “Phantom Syntopia is the most ambitious, singular, and highly Bespoke Phantom we have ever created,” said Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös, “and a clear statement of Rolls-Royce’s standing as a true luxury house.”

The car takes cues from Van Herpen’s Syntopia collection of 2018, in which she collaborated with artists Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta of the kinetic design duo Studio Drift after they’d used drone technology to imagine what Antonio Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona might look like if it had been finished. For Van Herpen’s collection, Studio Drift created an installation constructed of delicate glass wings representing the various stages of flight.

The interior of the Rolls-Royce Phantom Syntopia. Courtesy of Rolls-Royce.

The Rolls-Royce Phantom Syntopia. Courtesy of Rolls-Royce.

The exterior shimmers with a pearlescent Liquid Noir, a shade of paint developed exclusively for Phantom Syntopia that the car-maker said took 3,000 hours to perfect. Iridescent in sunlight, it is a dark, rich hue with undertones of purple, magenta, blue, and gold.

If that sounds extravagant, wait until you see the inside, which is filled with a kind of celestial light show. A sheet of laser-cut leather and petals of glass organza—resembling rippling water—comprise the top of the interior, while fiber-optic “star” lights give the impression of stargazing. Van Herpen’s team spent two weeks at the Rolls-Royce’s manufacturing facility in Goodwood, England, to complete the elaborate ornamentation.

Couture designer Iris Van Herpen with the Rolls-Royce Phantom Syntopia. Courtesy of Rolls-Royce.

The interior of the Rolls-Royce Phantom Syntopia. Courtesy of Rolls-Royce.

Adding to the Syntopia’s mystique is a custom fragrance that diffuses through the headrests. And for the final touch, Van Herpen crafted a sculptural dress for the client using liquid metal fabric that emulates the undulating water design of the interior. 

Van Herpen has long advocated for the early adoption of technology in her couture collections, pushing for the merging of art, craftsmanship, and technology. She often incorporates 3D printing and laser-cutting in her dressmaking, and routinely collaborates with artists and artisans. The designer’s work will be featured in an upcoming retrospective at Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.


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