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
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