The Bentley name is renowned in prestige motoring circles thanks to its reputation for impeccable craftsmanship, a bold identity and a racing pedigree built over a century.
Those same core values continue to map the English marque’s offerings to this very day, where competition in the luxury automotive market is staunch. The house of Bentley Mulliner was conceived to satisfy this discerning market’s most demanding clientele through unparalleled personalisation and design innovation.
At the heart of this program today is Hugo R Chizlett, Bespoke Designer for Mulliner and Motorsport at Bentley Motors. His job is to take an idea from a piece of paper through to conception to deliver a truly unique Bentley that stands as a one-off creation for its owner.
The CEO Magazine sits down with Chizlett to discover the definition of Mulliner in today’s world and what it’s like to operate in the exclusive bespoke car business.
Bespoke beyond your imagination
Taking a Bentley showroom model to the next level is no easy feat and involves a deep understanding on how to manage client expectations to achieve the final deliverable. A Bentley Mulliner client’s journey begins at either the showroom or via their online configurators.
"This gives customers a good sense of what is possible in terms of customisation options," explains Chizlett. But it’s only just the beginning.
"When customers come to do a one-on-one session with a Mulliner designer, we really want to allow customers to express themselves in the car. There are so many opportunities to make changes throughout this process beyond what can be done on the online configurators. We are really just there to help show customers what is possible."
And those possibilities are astounding for mere mortals who are used to picking a colour on the showroom floor and handing over their money. Starting with a base car is the first step of the Mulliner journey. What follows is a client’s inspiration.
"It can be the smallest flash of inspiration or even a physical item they own that becomes the source of inspiration. We recently had a customer who wanted to recreate the colours and design of a favourite candle in his home into a Continental GT.
"We invited him to the commissioning room within Mulliner’s workshop in Crewe [UK] and had an amazing collaborative session, giving the customer the most enjoyable and rewarding experience when creating his own car."
Lead times for these bespoke vehicles are purely dependent on the level of detail required to achieve the client’s vision.
"Additional lead time will depend on a lot of factors; whether we are using materials known to us, or entirely new materials like a tree from a customer’s own land as an example," adds Chizlett.
"It will depend on whether engineering techniques are known to us, or whether we need to create whole new ways to engineer the parts required."
It’s an arduous process but one in which Chizlett and his team take immense pride. Even with Bentley’s first electric car slated for arrival in 2025, Chizlett doesn’t see Mulliner having to change the way it designs bespoke models for a new platform.
"Regardless of powertrain, our customers will always expect the same key attributes from our vehicles, which encompass the immaculate use of luxury materials, colours and bespoke optionality. All of these features are in the pursuit of an unrivalled ‘cocooning’ feel of wellness whenever you enter a Bentley vehicle."
Inside the mind of a Bentley Mulliner designer
The design acumen required to bring a Mulliner car to life demands both immense talent and experience. Chizlett possesses both and is more than happy to share what it takes to score a coveted role in the Bentley design team.
"I have always worked as a bespoke design consultant with both a personal and professional interest based purely in the luxury automotive sector. The only non-consultant position I have ever had was as a design intern in the CMF team at Bentley Motors a number of years ago. That was what gave me the valuable contacts in Bentley Mulliner that initiated my return years later as Bespoke Design Consultant," he says.
"We are very lucky that our whole dedicated bespoke design team is made up of specialist consultants with a vast array of experience and skill sets that put us in a fantastic position to take any bespoke request and give it our full, unwavering attention.
"It’s certainly a difficult role to secure but would be the dream job of any budding bespoke designer. It takes a lot of work to be able to fulfil the requirements of a very demanding role that has a necessity for constant maturation of skills. At the level of Bentley Mulliner it can also only be fulfilled by the best of the best in the business, and our team is blessed to have exactly that."
While the hard work is evident in meeting client expectations, there are still proud moments to be celebrated in the role. For Chizlett, there’s no better feeling than a customer receiving their Bentley and sending him pictures of them taking delivery and enjoying the vehicle in the weeks, months and years to come.
"A customer who commissions a Bespoke Bentley creates not just a special car, but an extension of their personality and style. Seeing these nuanced details that I have worked on with them during the commissioning process becoming reality is always the greatest highlight of my work."
How to score a coveted role at Bentley
Realistically, not just anyone can become a designer for Bentley Mulliner. Knowing your strengths, who you want to work for and what you’re bringing to the game, according to Chizlett, could be your best bet.
"As soon as I left university I was adamant that I use my textiles education to offer a perspective that was missing in lots of automotive bespoke design teams, and to widen their
horizons in terms of offerings.
"Bentley Mulliner has such a strong and vivid history of coachbuilding and bespoke design it’s no surprise they were welcoming of my eye for detail.
"Continue to work hard to constantly mature and develop your skill sets and ensure you can
offer a unique perspective within bespoke design."