For the well-to-do, fashion-conscious crowd, getting something like a suit or dress personalized for fit and taste is common practice. BMW Group asks, why not cars? We chat with DesignworksUSA’s lead designer Sandy McGill.

The luxury vehicle manufacturer was in B.C. for auto show week and brought along a representative from the group’s design subsidiary, DesignworksUSA, a global consultancy based in California with studios all over the world, that works with both internal and external brands. They held a small presentation in downtown Vancouver that didn’t actually have anything to do with an unveiling of a specific model, but rather discussed the company’s creative arm and its in-house customization program.

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“We wanted to talk about beautiful, inspirational interiors and just elements that are beautiful and inspirational, and there’s no better person to speak about that than Sandy. And there’s no better place to do it than here in the presidential suite at the Fairmont Pacific Rim,” says Barb Pitblado, BMW director of corporate communications, who introduced DesignworksUSA’s lead designer Sandy McGill.

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Standing in front of a magnificent view of Coal Harbour and surrounded by samples of BMW paint colours and leather materials, McGill — who has been with DesignworksUSA since 1991 and also worked with household brands like Microsoft and Starbucks — talked about two bespoke services: BMW Individual Collection and BMW Individual Manufaktur.

“The key to the Individual program is exclusive materials and exceptional colours and craftsmanship. This is merino leather, it is the hallmark of the BMW program,” says McGill, pointing to an example of the supple-looking material.

Anyone who purchases a brand new BMW can have it tailored to his or her preference before taking delivery. Picking custom leather is just one facet — there is an extensive catalogue of everything from various types of wood to different steering wheels and wine fridges.

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“Wood from the Individual program is hand selected for quality and visual appeal. A single log is actually used in the interior in order to retain uniformity and to preserve the natural character of the wood, “ she clarifies.

To indulge in the ultimate expression of personalization, however, customers will have to turn to BMW Individual Manufaktur.

“You can have personal monograms, custom colours, custom details and custom functions,” says McGill. In other words, the sky’s the limit.

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To illustrate this point, a special BMW 7 Series inspired by German silversmith Robbe & Berking was shown on a screen in the room. This 760Li, massaged by Manufaktur, has 10 kilograms of sterling silver added to details including the rear decklid, emblem and the iconic kidney grille. There’s also silver in the decorative trim, hand hammered of course, and hand-sewn Amaro Brown leather headrests.

“This is a fantastic example of a special project from Individual Manufaktur. It’s spectacular, it really shows off the craftsmanship and the workmanship of the Individual workshop in Munich.”

Special BMW 7 Series inspired by German silversmith Robbe & Berking.
Special BMW 7 Series inspired by German silversmith Robbe & Berking.

Read more about their projects at HERE.

Benjamin Yong is a freelance writer and member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. You can find his stories on this site and in other publications including RPM Canada, Westworld BC, CAA Magazine and Darpan Magazine.