Every car produced by Aston Martin is undeniably both handsome and powerful. Each one is an exclusive product crafted to be a unique and personal expression of the owner. “At Aston Martin Design Studio, the creative team is fully focused on designing products that resonate perfectly with Aston Martin clients. Not only do our designers use a large array of sources of inspiration, but they are also deeply influenced by the vision and passion of Aston owners,” says Thomas Leret, Senior Manager in Colour and Materials at the Aston Martin Design Studio in Warwickshire. His specialist team tries to ensure that every car has the potential to be different through Colour and Materials options made available to the customer.
Leret leads a group of 10 creatives from the worlds of vehicle design, textiles and fashion, industrial and product design. Together they work closely with Aston Martin clients offering advice on colour schemes, material choices, trim details and all the elements that make these cars so special. Ultimately, the team is tasked with bringing the client’s vision to life. “There are so many options and the customer can be overwhelmed,” says Leret with a smile. “As designers, we can suggest themes, but our job is also to help our clients experience different universes.”
“Personalisation has really grown in our industry,” adds Senior Designer Colour and Materials Libby Meigh. Craft for Aston Martin is integral to the marque, woven into its narrative and never forced.
Personalising an Aston Martin involves a sophisticated design process. In the first instance, customers will be introduced to designer specifications — themes that express an individual model’s character. Leret mentions the “adrenalin range”, one of the six carefully curated design schemes offered on the new Vantage. Linked to innovation, the specification needed to look technical and agile and so has taken inspiration from modern sportswear and other advanced materials. Other designer specs may focus more on creating a luxurious environment and the feeling of sanctuary. Customers can also be inspired by the Q by Aston Martin-Collection and Q by Aston Martin-Commission. Q by Aston Martin-Collection offers a vast menu of materials, textures, colours and finishes, while Q by Aston Martin-Commission is the very ultimate in bespoke design “where we can create anything the customer desires with no limits”, says Leret.
Collaborative projects with brands from outside the automotive world offer an opportunity for the team to explore new themes, new materials and applications. Meigh is currently involved with the Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercar, which is being developed in partnership with Red Bull Advanced Technologies. Having studied print and woven textiles at university before entering vehicle design, she is still enthused by the potential of new materials and techniques.
“For the Aston Martin Valkyrie, we first looked at the car’s character and the material options that best expressed its technical nature, such as carbon fibre. My initial assumptions were based on what I had learned on previous projects — the type of weave and its direction and gloss levels,” she recalls. “I was excited by the F1 checkerboard-style carbon weave.” With a car like the Aston Martin Valkyrie, however, where performance is fundamental to its character, every speck of weight matters. “This meant considering every added element — even the thickness of the paint and lacquer finishes.” Meigh has had to decide which carbon elements can be left exposed and which can be finished in Aston Martin’s polished high-gloss style. “Our Valkyrie customers expect a high level of detail and craftsmanship. It is a fine balance,” she observes. “We have to be flexible, especially with a project such as the Valkyrie.”
The design team keeps exploring the wider world of luxury and is constantly looking and learning from other creative fields
The Aston Martin customer expects an experience that goes far beyond simply owning a vehicle, so the design team keeps exploring the wider world of luxury. It runs a bi-annual presentation on global trends within architecture, hotels, furniture design and fashion. Team members are constantly looking and learning from other creative fields, and from art and design fairs such as Salone del Mobile in Milan. “We are like sponges,” says Leret.
As an example, Meigh offers the DB11, which she describes as “my absolute favourite project because of the personal energy invested into it over several years.” The intricate leather broguing was inspired by the fashion for brogue shoes. “It is a crafted detail that required creating a unique machine to make the technique possible here.” It is now a popular option with customers.
Sometimes the team works directly with craftspeople. The saddle leather door trim in the Aston Martin One-77, for instance, was another novel idea after Meigh fell in love with the work of a craftsman in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, who combined stiff leather with carbon fibre. The unusual carbon treatment in the Vulcan was a nod to the trend in chopped construction materials. “The unidirectional layered materials are like a piece of jewellery,” she says.
The team also works in advanced design, exploring futuristic and sustainable materials. Leret confesses that it is a challenge to be innovative while maintaining the sense of luxury. He mentions 3D printing for new processes and materials, but admits these are all very much in an experimental phase: “It is a fantastic journey, pushing us as designers,” he says.
Meigh agrees. While she remains excited by novel materials, traditional expressions of luxury — authentic wood and fine leather, sustainably sourced — will remain integral to the Aston Martin ethos: “Our leather is from Bridge of Weir in Scotland, a supplier with an eco-friendly factory and a great story.”
Aston Martin customers are from all over the world and Leret feels it is essential to have a global mind-set. Both designers have worked internationally — Meigh at General Motors in Germany and Leret, prior to joining Aston Martin last year, worked for the Japanese brand Infiniti in Beijing and for Citroën DS in Paris. “Understanding regional voices and requests is something we push forward in our department,” he says. “In Europe, a car like an Aston Martin will need to be understated, but in other parts of the world it is a social status symbol and the design needs to show this off.”
Taste, of course, isn’t a static concept. “When I lived in Beijing,” says Leret, “I realised that trends in China are very difficult to predict and when they happen they are explosive, taking over all areas of life.” Japan is another big market for Aston Martin. “They may have strong rules, but they can have extreme and exciting tastes.” There have been occasions when the client’s requests, especially concerning colour combinations, have been a little unusual. “What may seem like a strange idea often makes sense when you visit the region and see the car in its natural surroundings,” observes Meigh. “You have to travel and learn.”
Aston Martin customers are diverse, decisive and individual, with projects like the Aston Martin Valkyrie introducing a very young demographic to the brand. “Some can be so informed and know what works,” says Meigh. “They have a lot
of interesting ideas and it can become more like an engaging dialogue between us.” Leret agrees. “They are passionate, excited to work with designers and interact with us. Most are hugely knowledgeable and I get to learn a lot from our discussions.” He smiles, adding: “They are here to create a unique work of art.”