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A Woman’s Touch

The female artisans at the heart of Rolls-Royce

As part of the celebration of International Women’s Day, I-M Magazine’s Shelley Campbell was invited to visit Rolls-Royce Motor Cars for an intimate and insightful tour of its jaw-dropping manufacturing headquarters at Goodwood and a chat with a few of the female artisans contributing to the excellence of every car that comes out of its production line.  

We were collected from Chichester Station by the congenial Holly who, in a text message said, “Don’t worry, you can’t miss me, I will be the only Rolls Royce parked at the station.” Funny enough, she was correct. During the tour of the colossal 50,000sqm assembly plant, the first thing that struck me was the air of serenity and happiness – a collaborative community, free of stress. 

The automotive industry has historically been male dominated, with women being largely excluded from engineering, manufacturing, design, and executive roles. However, in recent years, there has been a notable shift. The call to address “greater gender diversity” has given the industry a firm kick and women are now being recognised for their talent, unique perspective, and innovative ideas. At Rolls-Royce, around 20 percent of the employees are women. They work mostly in areas that involve craftmanship, with creativity, passion and imagination nurtured at every turn. In my visit, I had the chance to engage with some of their incredibly talented female artisans to find out more about their stories. 

My role also allows me to be creative and explore my passion for intricate design and embroidery.”

– Daisy Hopwood

Chloe Dowsett and Sarah Hollowday (opening picture) both work at the Exterior Surface Centre, Bespoke. Chloe joined Rolls-Royce Motor Cars nearly four years ago. She tells me that she has always been really passionate about fine art, design and drawing. As Bespoke Project Manager, Sarah’s role involves managing and coordinating the design intent/ client wishes to ensure that the relevant paint shop teams have all they need to deliver projects on time and to the highest standard. “I love combining my interest in art and design with my project management skills to manage these one-off paint requests,” shares Sarah. “Working with all the Exterior Surface Centre teams to see something we’ve planned meticulously come to life is amazing.  Every car is unique, so no two days are the same. The level of craftmanship is unparalleled and it is an honour to support the teams “backstage”, bringing the designs to life.” 

Daisy Hopwood joined Rolls-Royce five years ago and now heads up the Bespoke Embroidery and Development department within the Interior Trim Centre. Daisy says, “I have always been interested in textiles, embroidery, and crafts. I studied textile design, focusing on digital print and after the completion of my studies, I was lucky enough to be employed by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. Whilst there is always a strict process to adhere to involving meticulous attention to detail, the role also allows me to be creative and explore my passion for intricate design and embroidery. It is always remarkable to see a project progress and witness the evolution of a commission, but knowing that I contributed to the sensory feel of driving a car of this calibre, is something I will always be proud of.” 

The decorations on this Rolls-Royce Phantom shown at London Craft Week 2021 we’re inspired by the honey bees in the Goodwood Apiary, established in 2018.

The delightfully engaging Allie Knight arrived in Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in 2014 as an apprentice and then qualified as an Automotive Paint Sprayer and Body Work Technician. Her role has evolved to Bespoke Lacquer Specialist. Her work is quite frankly astounding. “I joined Rolls-Royce nine years ago, and since then the opportunities extended to me have been invaluable. I have had the chance to get involved in many an exciting project, however the one that stands out for me was designing and creating a highly bespoke Phantom bonnet, inspired by the 300,000 English honeybees that are situated on site. This creation was then showcased at London Craft Week in 2021, an event which celebrates the pinnacle of British craftsmanship.”

“I joined Rolls-Royce nine years ago, and since then the opportunities extended to me have been invaluable.”

Allie Knight

Allie now works in the Interior Surface Centre alongside the equally skilled Audrey Fasquelle. Audrey trained in France in art and craft, specialised in marquetry. “My main passion is marquetry and woodwork,” she shares, “the one I wake up for each morning.” Rather illuminating are the narratives which lead both artisans to where they are now. For Allie, it was the encouragement of an art teacher, and for Audrey, it was her mother – both were powerful and influential women, and what they had in common was the ability to recognise individuality and support a talent that might not have flourished otherwise.

Audrey Fasquelle created the rose gallery for the Phantom at London Craft Week 2022.

Last, I spoke to Natalia Zajac, Bespoke Development Associate. She commented, “The best part of my job is working on a project from start to finish, where I can see the progress from the beginning with the designer’s drawing to a fully assembled car. It’s rewarding to see your work helping to create a unique and extraordinary car.”

Before travelling back to London, I drove a Black Badge Ghost around the area, which gave me the chance to observe in detail and appreciate the work of the women I had just met, and who are pivotal in keeping Rolls-Royce’s reputation at the very top of luxury. But their contribution goes even further. To me, they are a fundamental part of the spirit of diligence, refinement and community that the company is so proud of, and their pride and passion for craftsmanship is evidenced by their unrelenting pursuit of ultimate perfection.  

Words: Shelley Campbell

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