Redman Whiteley Dixon, one of the UK’s premier yacht design consultancies, remained robust during the recession and now their phone is ringing off the hook. Creative Director and Partner Toby Ecuyer reveals the secret behind their enduring appeal.

Last year, RWD launched seven yachts, the Feadship COMO among them. This year, it’s back to the drawing board with another seven to design, three of which are over 100m and all of which are with respected Northern European shipbuilders. ‘There’s confidence on all sides,’ says Toby Ecuyer of the healthy market, ‘Old clients have come back and over the last year it’s gone crazy with serious enquiries.’ Since launching in 1993, the RWD team has grown rapidly and their portfolio has widened to include projects as diverse as a ski chalet and car interior, a chess set, binocular cases and luggage. Everything is designed with the rules, principles and integrity of their yacht interiors and exteriors: ‘We never repeat what we have done before and we’re ruthless about our detailing,’ says
Toby, ‘No two clients are the same, and so no two boats are the same.’

Clients expect a highly personalized experience from RWD. ‘If you buy a Ferrari, you like the design – but that’s the design coming before the owner. We’re designing your boat for you, not our boat for you,’ Toby explains. His relationship with the client is key, ‘An owner has to have confidence in the designer’ he says, and the nurturing of that client’s creative impulse is crucial. Toby picks up nuances of their personality from their lifestyle, home, clothes and watch, even their favourite restaurant. Clients, meanwhile, have found inspiration in all corners – one owner famously bringing RWD a much adored Hermès handbag as the brief for BATON ROUGE. 

Having first worked with Toby on HAMPSHIRE II, Chris was impressed by his extraordinary sketching ability. ‘He can translate your desire on paper in front of you, with perfect proportion,’ says Chris, ‘the sketches are emotive and evocative, suggestive rather than definitive.’ Toby believes that good sketching at the initial stage of a project is vital, and RWD has gained a reputation for it, ‘Time with the client is precious and they need to see the boat come alive,’ he says, ‘they can then sketch on top, engage more and have ownership of it.’ Having gauged the owner’s particularities, Toby will collate the appropriate fabrics, marble, materials and metal. An aspect of his role that he particularly enjoys is working with a host of skilled artisans on the detail. 

It can take three or four years to complete a build, and Toby endeavours to make the experience entertaining. The success of the annual RWD Auto Tour – a 20-strong supercar rally from London to the Monaco Boat Show – is an indication of how convivial the relationships between client, designer, broker and shipbuilder become. ‘At RWD we’re the conduit for the client’s designs, we steer and guide them but it’s very much theirs,’ Toby says with characteristic modesty, ‘If they say to their friends that it’s a yacht they designed, then I’m pleased.’ 

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