THE NEW BENTLEY ON THE BLOCK

The Bri­tish car man­u­fac­turer has pulled the cov­ers off its lat­est cre­ation, but you’ll be lucky to even see one, let alone get behind the wheel, writes Si­mon Wilgress-Pipe

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While Bent­ley has joined a slew of car man­u­fac­tur­ers in sus­pend­ing operations at its fac­tory for a month, pro­duc­tion of its lat­est cre­ation, the uber ex­clu­sive Mulliner Ba­calar, will likely re­main un­af­fected, since only 12 of the ve­hi­cles will be built, with de­liv­ery not due un­til 2021. “We’re try­ing to min­imise dis­rup­tion to our cus­tomers as much as pos­si­ble. The first Ba­calar isn’t due to go its owner un­til early next year,” a Bent­ley spokesper­son told Lux­ury.

The two-seater Mulliner Ba­calar is the most ex­clu­sive and be­spoke ve­hi­cle that the company has pro­duced in the mod­ern era, it claims. The new model, re­vealed to the world from the brand’s head­quar­ters in Crewe, in the north of Eng­land, is a dis­tinct speed­ster of the most su­pe­rior kind, based on the man­u­fac­turer’s EXP 100 GT con­cept ve­hi­cle.

How­ever, no mat­ter how big your bank bal­ance, if you haven’t al­ready put an or­der in, you won’t get one of the few that will come off the pro­duc­tion line, freshly hand-built by the company’s team of en­gi­neers and ar­ti­sans. Each of the 12 Ba­calars has al­ready been bought and no doubt al­lo­cated in ad­vance suit­ably favoured spots in garages across the world.

The Ba­calar, whose name comes from a par­tic­u­larly blue la­goon in Mex­ico, marks the lux­ury car­maker’s re­turn to what is known as coach-build­ing, which, in lay­man’s terms, in­di­cates cars created with spe­cific in­put from cus­tomers. Each of the 12 ve­hi­cles will, there­fore, be unique.

Per­for­mance-wise, we can talk about the power and speed of the Ba­calar, of course – it has a tur­bocharged six-litre en­gine that will pro­duce 650 BHP – but that isn’t why you’d buy a car of this sort. All that har­nessed en­ergy is part of the appeal, of course, but con­cepts such as beauty, ex­clu­siv­ity and the kind of com­fort you’d only find be­ing cos­set­ted in an up­right mem­ory foam mat­tress, are what re­ally mat­ters.

Ste­fan Sielaff is Bent­ley’s di­rec­tor of de­sign, and the man most re­spon­si­ble for the look and feel of the Ba­calar (prior to any of the afore­men­tioned cus­tomi­sa­tion, of course). He is Ger­man, but an unashamed An­glophile, hav­ing stud­ied at the Royal Col­lege of Art in Lon­don.

The Ba­calar, he says, is the first re­lease in a new strat­egy for Bent­ley that will see the man­u­fac­turer fo­cus on pro­duc­ing low-vol­ume, coach-built cars, as well as the cus­tomi­sa­tion of its core mod­els. And, Sielaff says, de­spite its moder­nity, the Ba­calar takes cues from Bent­ley’s clas­sic mod­els. “You can clearly see echoes of the EXP 100 GT in the Ba­calar, as well as the in­flu­ence of the past,” he says.

“Bent­ley has a rich history of open-cock­pit cars – the de­sign of the Birkin Blower Bent­ley of the late 1920s was also an in­spi­ra­tion,” he adds.

How­ever, Sielaff had a re­mit to push the bound­aries as far as pos­si­ble with the Ba­calar. “Cus­tomers were ask­ing what Bent­ley’s take on a more ex­pres­sivelook­ing car at this price point would look like,” he says. “We were also tasked with start­ing to de­liver on Bent­ley’s prom­ise to use sus­tain­able ma­te­ri­als. Within less than a year of re­veal­ing our fu­ture-fo­cused con­cept, we have al­ready delivered on this prom­ise.”

That eth­i­cal sus­tain­abil­ity point is some­thing that the brand is keen to un­der­line, which is no sur­prise given the mood of much of the world with re­gard to such mat­ters. As an ex­am­ple, the paint is made of rice husks, which prob­a­bly wouldn’t have been an op­tion any lux­ury car man­u­fac­turer would have con­sid­ered in days of yore.

Usu­ally, at this point in an ar­ti­cle of this sort, you might talk about when the car is avail­able and how much it is likely to cost. Well, as we’ve as­cer­tained, only a dozen peo­ple on the planet will get one. And the price? Es­ti­mates sug­gest about Dh8.7 mil­lion. No real sur­prises there, of course. We all like some­thing chic and unique, but, in a Bent­ley Mulliner Ba­calar, it was never go­ing to be a bud­get op­tion. www.bent­ley­mo­tors.com

“The most im­por­tant and o en un­der­em­pha­sised el­e­ment in per­sonal style is the per­son. Un­der­stand­ing who you are and be­ing true to your­self. Find­ing the self in the self-ex­pres­sion. That is a life­long jour­ney,” says Waris Ah­luwalia, ac­tor, de­signer, plant af­fi­cionado and, now, fash­ion cu­ra­tor.

If any­one’s fash­ion advice is worth heed­ing, it is prob­a­bly Ah­luwalia’s. He reg­u­larly tops best-dressed lists and pos­i­tively oozes style. Blessed with an abil­ity to turn any out­fit into an ex­er­cise in el­e­gance, helped no doubt by his stat­uesque turban and some­what sump­tu­ous beard, he has fur­ther upped his sar­to­rial game through a re­cent col­lab­o­ra­tion with lux­ury re­tailer Match­esFash­ion.

Since launch­ing in 1987, Match­esFash­ion has re­alised that while we all rel­ish the ease of on­line shop­ping, there’s a lot to be said for a more per­sonal touch. Its so­lu­tion is the Cu­rated By se­ries, which sees fa­mous faces hand-pick their per­fect cap­sule wardrobe from the Matches port­fo­lio, which the public can then pe­ruse. Past cu­ra­tors have in­cluded stylist and pho­tog­ra­pher, Vene­tia Scott; di­rec­tor and for­mer prin­ci­pal dancer at Bal­let Frank­furt, Stephen Gal­loway; Arse­nal vice-cap­tain and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, Héc­tor Bellerín; and celebrity tat­too artist, Dr Woo.

Ah­luwalia join­ing their ranks was a straight­for­ward process. Vis­it­ing a Match­esFash­ion pop-up out­side Rome, Ah­luwalia bumped into Robert Raben­steiner, stylist, ex-fash­ion editor of L’Uomo Vogue and a ma­jor force be­hind the Cu­rated By se­ries. “When Robert asked me to be a part of the next se­ries, I couldn’t refuse. Sim­ple,” he says.

With free rein of the brand’s cat­a­logue of menswear, Ah­luwalia’s se­lec­tion is sharp but care­free. Lo­goed Gucci socks sit next to a sin­gle-breasted Burberry suit in baby blue, while a glossy black for­mal shoe from Paul Smith ap­pears along­side a gold and black Ver­sace bathrobe. “My per­sonal style is a re­flec­tion of my ap­proach to my life and my work,” he ex­plains. “The Match­esFash­ion cu­ra­tion al­lowed for that light touch. The ac­cents, the wink, if you will. Ex­plo­ration in colour and tex­ture. A rev­er­ence for tra­di­tion with some mer­ry­mak­ing and mis­chief mixed in.”

The ac­com­pa­ny­ing images are not your stan­dard glossy fare, ei­ther. Mod­el­ling his own se­lec­tion, Ah­luwalia looks suit­ably dap­per whether dressed in cream high-waisted Paul Smith trousers with a P Le Moult white robe, or a black vel­vet col­lar­less Gior­gio Armani jacket with pin­stripe Saint Lau­rent jeans. De­spite mak­ing the se­lec­tion, how­ever, Ah­luwalia was con­tent to leave the mak­ing of the fi­nal looks to the ex­pert. “Robert [Raben­steiner] pushes my per­sonal style with great flare and vivid ges­tures. [He] is an artist and I dare not ques­tion the work of an artist.”

For the launch of the col­lec­tion, Match­esFash­ion staged two events in Fe­bru­ary. One was an in­stal­la­tion of the images and an ac­com­pa­ny­ing video at its Lon­don town house, 5 Car­los Place, May­fair, while an “im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence” took place at the Frieze art fair in Los An­ge­les, at­tended by the man him­self.

Born in Am­rit­sar city in Pun­jab, Ah­luwalia moved to the United States with his fam­ily when he was 5, and now calls New York home. He has ap­peared in a num­ber of Wes An­der­son films, in­clud­ing The Life Aquatic with Steve Zis­sou (2004), The Dar­jeel­ing Lim­ited (2007) and The Grand Bu­dapest Ho­tel (2014).

Keen to pur­sue var­i­ous cre­ative out­lets, in 2007, he launched The House of Waris, a la­bel fo­cused on pre­serv­ing and sup­port­ing cra sman­ship, which earned him a nom­i­na­tion for the Vogue Fash­ion Fund in 2009, quickly fol­lowed by his win­ning a Coun­cil of Fash­ion De­sign­ers Amer­ica (CFDA) Fash­ion In­cu­ba­tor grant. The ac­tor also launched The House of Waris Botan­i­cals, a tea shop, and what is dubbed The Lab, of­fer­ing tea with heal­ing as well as sooth­ing prop­er­ties. A long-time ad­vo­cate of the power of plants, this is a topic close to his heart.

“Our re­la­tion­ship to na­ture is bro­ken. We see our­selves as sep­a­rate from na­ture, when in reality, we are one and the same. Our re­la­tion­ship to na­ture is our re­la­tion­ship to our­selves. Do we treat our­selves with love? Do we treat our­selves and others with care? With House of Waris Botan­i­cals, we want to show peo­ple that they have power over their well-be­ing. This is an ex­er­cise in slow­ing down. This is an ex­er­cise in tak­ing con­trol,” Ah­luwalia ex­plains.

That comes via the hand-blended teas sold in a tea house close to New York’s High Line. De­spite its com­pact size, it is, un­sur­pris­ingly, im­mac­u­late, and offers a lan­guid space where cus­tomers can en­joy a calm­ing blend. “We work with tea es­tates, farms and herbal­ists to de­velop pro­pri­etary blends that harness the power of plants – ingredient­s that have been un­der

our noses for cen­turies. Our or­ganic non-GMO herbs, rich in an­tiox­i­dants, vi­ta­mins and nu­tri­ents, come from just about ev­ery­where – from Egypt to Ore­gon.”

A team is tasked with re­search­ing and cra ing each blend, us­ing adap­to­gens that are said to help the body deal with stress (“and used by many in­dige­nous cul­tures across the world from the Siberian Plains to the north-west US”), but Ah­luwalia’s role is slightly less sci­en­tific. “Ev­ery­thing has be for­mu­lated and created as a way to help us re­think well-be­ing as cel­e­bra­tion. My fo­cus is on the taste. It’s im­por­tant that the blends are not only heal­ing, but taste out­ra­geously de­li­cious.”

His con­nec­tion to na­ture ex­tends to an­i­mals too, as for over a decade, he has been a pa­tron of the Ele­phant Fam­ily, an or­gan­i­sa­tion founded in 2002, which works to pro­tect Asian ele­phants and those who come into daily con­flict with them. “It was while work­ing on Dar­jeel­ing Lim­ited that I dis­cov­ered Ele­phant Fam­ily. Wes [An­der­son] asked me to make a pin [badge] for my uni­form. We then sold a ver­sion of it on Yoox to raise money for the or­gan­i­sa­tion, whose mis­sion is to fa­cil­i­tate co­ex­is­tence be­tween hu­mans and wildlife across Asia. It’s eas­ier, as in­di­vid­u­als, to think the prob­lem is poach­ing, be­cause there are bad guys and there are vic­tims. But the over­all prob­lem is the fact that crea­tures in the wild are run­ning out of wild spa­ces. Over time, we’ve been re­moved from our­selves, from each other, and we look at it as sep­a­rate things when it needs to just be one.”

Ah­luwalia’s pas­sion for re-es­tab­lish­ing links be­tween peo­ple and na­ture has not gone un­no­ticed. In 2016, he was hon­oured by the Mayor of New York, who de­clared Oc­to­ber 19 Waris Ah­luwalia Day, in recog­ni­tion of his work pro­mot­ing tol­er­ance and in­clu­siv­ity. And Ah­luwalia is adamant that we are all ca­pa­ble of a shi in our way of think­ing. “Early in life, I re­alised that I would not fit in any­where. It’s not my pur­pose in life to fit in. I do what makes me happy and nour­ishes my soul and hu­man­ity.

“How the world re­acts is not in my hands. The goal along the way is to stay true to my­self and the val­ues my par­ents and cul­ture have given me. All I had were my in­stincts and I learnt early on to trust them. It’s a skill we’re given, a tool. It’s up to us to sharpen it and learn to use it. We all have it to some de­gree. The uni­verse speaks to us all – we just have to learn how to lis­ten,” Ah­luwalia con­cludes.

They Bent­ley Mulliner Ba­calar is based on the man­u­fac­turer’s EXP 100 GT con­cept ve­hi­cle

Waris Ah­luwalia’s Cu­rated By edit for Match­esFash­ion in­cludes, clock­wise from right, Gucci oval ac­etate sun­glasses, a black and gold Ver­sace robe, Gucci socks and glossy for­mal shoes by Paul Smith

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