Luxury – once a synonym for the very finest goods, materials and craftsmanship – appears to be the norm today. Many aspects of modern life, such as cramped hotel rooms, plain wristwatches or the ubiquitous shades, claim to be luxurious. What better reason to go in search of true luxury with Dirk van Braeckel, Director of Styling and Concept Design at Bentley? And what better place than London?
“With salt and pepper?” Three percent of all vegetable juice consumed worldwide – 1.2 million litres in all – is served aboard airplanes. Even though flying is very much a part of everyday life these days, it seems that nothing symbolizes the luxury of air travel quite like a glass of tomato juice.
TRADITION, MODERNIZED WITH THE UTMOST CARE
Van Braeckel, a 52-year-old native of Belgium, defines luxury as “Things that go beyond the everyday – special things that you can afford or would like to be able to afford. Which is exactly what customers cherish about Bentley. We are synonymous with a kind of luxury that is firmly rooted in tradition. The fascination with our brand stems from the fact that we identify traditional values, cultivate them and adapt them skillfully to modern life.”
Today in London, van Braeckel plans to visit places where true luxury can be experienced. On the way to the Mulsanne1, which is parked in the underground garage at the City Air Terminal, the designer explains laconically: “No one actually needs luxury products, but everyone desires them. So my job is to entice people to give in to their desires. You might even say that I work as a ‘seducer’ for Bentley!”
Once the doors of the Mulsanne have closed softly, the noise and commotion of the outside world are left behind. It is a cocoon. Comfort for connoisseurs.
THE “SPACESHIP” THAT WON HEARTS
We head for the city center, the deep growl of the engine providing a fitting backdrop for the quiet, almost cautious conversation. That is, until the car door opens again in front of the One Aldwych hotel. For a few moments, our ears are subjected to an unpleasant droning noise, before the front door of the hotel closes behind us – another cocoon of luxury for its guests. The gentleman from Deinze near Gent resumes the conversation so abruptly interrupted by the London hubbub: “When I started working on my first project – the Continental GT – in summer 1999, I was set on doing something different. I wanted to take a great leap forward and build a modern car that would still be immediately recognizable as a Bentley. When the final product was unveiled, some people thought it resembled a spaceship. Nonetheless, the car was a true Bentley that succeeded in convincing the Board of Management and then – more importantly – winning the hearts of our customers. Today, ten years on, the Continental GT1 is by far the brand’s most successful model. Modernizing the brand’s tradition was the right decision.”
The same is true of One Aldwych, which combines state-of-the-art technology and individualized attention to detail in a style that expertly blends the modern and the traditional. This is not a hotel that pays homage to its designer, but rather one that is devoted to its guests. As with Bentley, the traditional values are clearly recognizable in spite of the modern trappings.
THE BENTLEY SEDUCER – Design Chief Dirk van Braeckel believes in the marriage of tradition and modernity.