A Special Saturday Report

Alcantara – What is it?

By Ron Amadon

WASHINGTON, DC – Auto buffs know that it is part of the interior styling of very upscale automobiles from Ferrari, Audi, BMW, Porsche Tesla and Maserati.

But if you are really going to promote it at a special event at the Italian Embassy you have to bring along an example or two. So why not go all out and take along a Lamborghini Aventador and Huracan!!!

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Even sitting still in the yard the designs were enough to set off any nearby radar gun. The Aventador, in white, sports a 6.5-liter V12 good for around 700 horsepower, 0-62 in 2.9 seconds and a top track speed of 217 mph. The newer Huracan has a V10 rated at 602 horsepower, 0-60 in 2.5 seconds and a top track speed of 202 mph.

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Both were generously covered inside in Alcantara and just sitting in them was enough to realize the heaping helping of Italian testosterone that goes into each model emphasized by the Lambo emblem – a raging bull.

Not to be outdone, the coming Acura NSX supercar will feature grey Alcantara with contrasting stitching for the door panels, control panel, headliner and the central section of the seats.

Cars, Alcantara notes, especially very expensive ones, “have become miniature dream homes today,” so that people sitting in them expect to feel at home and “find all they love most.”

But I digress. (Easy enough to do in these cars!)

Did you know that there is only one company in the whole world that makes trademarked Alcantara? Located in Milan, Italy, it was founded in 1972, and brought on board our host Andrea Boragno as its CEO in 2004. A veteran of the fashion and design business, he convinced the company that it “could do much more in the market.” That led to the world of fashion, consumer electronics, (imagine your head phones covered in the stuff,) and interior design.

It worked. Sales grew 12 percent from 2013 to 2014 with earnings advancing 20 percent. The auto industry still accounts for 70 percent of Alcantara’s annual sales with the fashion industry contributing 13 percent, interior design seven percent and consumer electronics six percent.

The press meeting with Boragno took place at the elegant Italian Embassy located in a quiet neighborhood filled with embassies in Northwest D.C. On the couches outside the meeting room were pillows made from Alcantara that were the softest you could ever imagine.

In the fashion world, it has relationships with Japanese courtier Yohji Yamamoto and designer Max Mara and on the other end of the scale, Woolrich. Alcantara hosted a VIP fashion show during the Los Angeles Auto Show with furniture from Ligne Roset, which is sort of on the opposite end of the scale from Ikea.

Alcantara was also the first Italian company to achieve Carbon Neutrality in 2009, and played a large role in Earth Day observances on the National Mall in D.C.

They are not resting on their environmental laurels, vowing to further reduce production process energy consumption by an additional 25 percent by 2017.

“Our world matters,” is the company tagline.

Yet to Boragno there is more to all this.

“Top quality is not enough. You have to have emotion to remain at the top,” rather than just banging out a product day to day, he said. Emotion – like those two cars parked out front.*

He believes in the concept of “everyday beauty” – something that can be enjoyed every moment of life in harmony with technology and respect for the environment and contemporary social values.

Okay, so Alcantara is a registered trademark, found on    the interior roof, seats, dash panel and door panels of a car, on a sofa, a high fashion outfit, audio headphones, or tablet cover. But what is it reporters wanted to know.

Boragno bristled slightly when reporter tried to equate it to something like a microfiber.

“It is a material,” he summed up plain and simple.

That did kind of say it all.

 

*I asked several people if I could take the Aventador or the Huracan home. No one said no, yet no one said yes either. So took the subway. Sigh.

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “A Special Saturday Report

  1. I guess they would be quite upset if people thought it was Ultrasuede. Or Feathersuede. Isn’t Alcantara just synthetic suedelike material, much like a 2.1 version of Ultrasuede? Made from petrochemicals?

    (Checks wikipedia)

    Yeah, it is a sister-product of Ultrasuede, probably made by recycling milk jugs.

    Ultrasuede got a really bad name around 1980-1984, because some people associated it with a certain lifestyle, and then the preppies hated on anything that was not natural fibers. And the vegans hated anything that simulated leather.

    But Alcantara, Ultrasuede, or one of the other synthetics might be acceptable to some vegetarians, if not vegans.

    Some early, cheap synthetic suedes did not age well. It will be interesting to see how alcantara will hold up over the long term in the demanding environments of automobiles.

    I had a very nice synthetic suede sports coat I bought around 1977 or so. It was a better quality synthetic suede, and held up very well. But I didn’t leave the jacket in a parked automobile in the heat of summer.

    Pfft…Youngsters today.

    • By the way, I really liked my Feathersuede (R) jacket by Lanvin. As I said, mine was a very good synthetic suede. And Feathersuede was much warmer than leather, easier to clean, and quite good. It was also $300 in 1977 or 1978 money, so I expected it hold up well.

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