One look at a Wally silhouette was enough to convince leading car designer Adriana Monk her future was in sail yacht design. Jody Chapman talks to her about sensory elevation and the joy of working for a true luxury brand

Aged seven, I saw my first Lamborghini Countach. I had wriggled my way through the crowd at the Earls Court motor show and caught a glimpse of the impossible geometry and bravado of the future/ it was a bright red MK3 LP500. I had never seen anything so incredible before and wanted one so badly it hurt. Twenty years later, while walking along Porto Cervo Marina in Sardinia, the same wave of nauseous envy hit me, this time not because of Lamborghini designer Marcello Gandini’s exuberance, but the Minimalist lines of a 28m-long Wally sloop, the Y3K.

Wally helped pioneer the phenomenon of the superyacht as the ultimate plaything. Previously, skippering a large sail yacht was something undertaken only by those of a nautical bent. The Wallygator, launched in 1991, could be sailed easily and required few deckhands – it offered freedom, luxury and access to the most beautiful places in the world to the privileged few. Wally is now the most formidable and revered name in yacht design, driven by founder and chief executive Luca Bassani Antivari’s single-minded mission to create the ultimate luxury product.

Last September, Adriana Monk, then chief designer at Jaguar-Land Rover Advanced Design, visited the Monaco boat show and was awestruck. ‘I spotted these sleek black silhouettes and decided I had to work for Wally,’ she says. After speaking to Bassani Antivari, it became evident Wally was in a phase of transition and needed someone with a design reputation. Interior design had been mostly outsourced to architects; Bassani Antivari saw Monk’s portfolio of interiors as a chance to bring design back to Monaco.

‘It’s about being in the right place at the right time,’ explains Monk, who arrived at BMW in 1995 to work on the design which was to become the current Range Rover interior. She then transferred to Rolls-Royce and was integral to the Phantom concept. Leaving BMW, she moved to Ford, working on the Lincoln and Mercury brands, and latterly at Jaguar-Land Rover Advanced Design where she developed the CFX and LRX series. ‘As a chief designer and a female in a large organisation such as Ford, my prospects were good, but I got to the point where I needed inspiration and didn’t want to become a frustrated designer,’ she says.

Her diligence in Monaco paid off. In January this year, Monk was made Wally chief interior designer, a new post which sits alongside chief sail boat and chief power boat designers under the careful guidance of Bassani Antivari. ‘The ironic thing is that I had always cited Wally design as inspirational; I would always put images of its yachts on mood boards,’ says Monk.

Monk is justifiably excited about her future at Wally. ‘We inspire each other,’ she enthuses. ‘I have always designed holistically and here there are no boundaries between exterior and interior. I am so excited about the possibilities.’

Designers – whether they are automotive, architectural or nautical – face similar issues: optimising space and increasing usability. Having worked for luxury automotive brands, Monk sees her main challenge as the increased standard and perception of ‘luxury’ for a very discerning clientele. ‘Anyone can do leather and wood,’ she says. ‘It’s about comfort, attention to detail, lighting and materials. Above all, it’s about sensory elevation.’ While she admits it was a daunting move from an automotive background, she says, ‘Sometimes, the naive questions haven’t been asked before, and prompt the most interesting results.’

Designing bespoke yacht interiors and exteriors has many similarities to designing concept cars – everything is a one-off. The main difference is that decision-making is so much easier compared to large corporate organisations. Monk remarks, ‘At Wally, if we like something, it gets built’. Wally’s trademark Modernist, sometimes stark, Minimalism is an unforgiving environment for bespoke hand-crafted design – there is nowhere to hide errors. It has always used advances in technology to minimise, automate, retract and hide systems, equipment and rigging to achieve uninterrupted lines and lightness. Lighter also means faster, and, to Wally, ‘Faster means more fun’.

Wally has established its own ‘design DNA’ through sail boats, power boats and even skis, and their owners are buying into that image, whereas other yacht studios are subject to clients’ tastes. Wally’s clients have entrusted the designers to create something iconic, and they rarely disappoint. As Bassani Antivari says, ‘I always saw Wally as a luxury brand, not just a shipyard’.

Jody Chapman is a designer at motor yacht firm Redman Whiteley Dixon

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