Of Which the Stuff Of Dreams Are Woven

Following a discussion on the relative merits of various fabrics here and an article by Mick here I decided to take a preliminary look at the world of automotive fabrics.

1997 Lancia Y interior: source
1997 Lancia Y interior: source

Somewhat late in life I’ve developed a curious fascination with fabric in design. This is an extension of my interest in colour. The two go together and often a fine fabric is presented in a rather dreary hue or else a nice set of colours is marred by an unsuitable pattern or weave. For quite some time the world of vehicle fabrics has been stuck in a bit of rut. Fiat are perhaps the most notable exceptions to this, chiefly in their smaller cars. The rest of the world is trading – it seems – in dark grey woven cloth or unconvincing leather.

2016 Alcantara samples: source
2016 Alcantara samples: source

Kicking off this short tour, we find Alcantara in the news. Automotive News reported recently on the impact of weight reduction on car fabrics. Alcantara’s chief  “estimates the synthetic suede is about half the weight of leather. That means using a 5-meter covering made from the leather alternative would save about 2kg per car compared with the real thing.” Alcantara list the Martindale value of their synthetic suede at 30,000 rubs.

A little research shows this value is precisely what you’d expect for a material subject to heavy wear. Yet my perception is that it does not wear so well. I have asked a supplier of automotive fabrics, Sage, to provide some values for other materials and I will report back in due course. Alcantara is more than just a flat fabric, I discovered. According to Alcantara the future of their fabric is not only about lightness but involves “greater use of embossed, woven or perforated raw and synthetic materials incorporating a wide array of techniques including tone-on-tone stitching, thermo-welded synthetics and innovative electro-welding on foam bases”. So, who is going to be the first to use these fabrics in a car we can buy?

Sage´s Dinamica fabric, made by Miko: source
Sage´s Dinamica fabric, made by Miko: source

Sage offer a similar kind of fabric they call Dinamica. It’s a “luxury microfiber suede from Miko* that is made primarily from recycled polyester fiber and is 100% recyclable. It meets the most stringent requirements of the automobile industry for luxurious, timeless beauty, as well as the needs of the most demanding drivers for comfort, elasticity and breathability.” They also like to emphasise their eco-credentials as the fabric is made of recycled material. As far as I can make out, Dinamica has a Martindale value of 50,000 using  DIN EN ISO 12947. That seems to put it ahead of Alcantara. Sage also sell what looks like a woven material called Yes Essentials and a technical material called FXC which resembles a fabric from a sporting garment and which is tougher and more comfortable than vinyl or leather.

Both of these suppliers show an alternative to this:

not again: source
not again: source

If you want to read more about Martindale tests, click here.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

8 thoughts on “Of Which the Stuff Of Dreams Are Woven”

  1. Fascinating stuff. I’ve always associated Alcantara with Lancia, who used the material to cover the seats (and dashboard?) of the Y10 in the mid-1980’s. I’m actually surprised that it hasn’t been used more by mainstream manufacturers since.

    1. Audi used to show a deft hand when it came to the handling of Alcantara as well. I think it was the D3 generation A8 that was last to be equipped with Alcantara door cards as standard. And nice they were, too.

  2. I’ve never thought about the weight of upholstery before. Rather than the rather fey reasoning for retrimming my Citroen with Alcantara rather than leather (leather’s toooo sticky), maybe I should cite the weight saving’s effect on my personal ‘Ring record.

  3. Richard, thanks for mentioning ‘Addicted to cars’ here. It seems that I have quite some reading in front of me. And thanks for raising a voice for nicer fabrics in cars.

    1. You are welcome!
      I’d like to get an insider’s view on fabric choices. The field is huge and yet so much remains little used. Fiat stand out here for their use of alternatives.

  4. The interior of the Citroen C8 (only in Exclusive trim?) has a lot of Alcantara – even on the dashboard there is a big strip of this fine stuff. I like the whole car inside with its nice instruments and the comfortable seats. This car was inside much more beautifiul than seen from outside.

    A friend of mine bought a used Audi A6 allroad a couple of years ago – equipped with a dark Alcantara roof. Very nice but he told me that this nice detail had an extra-price of 2000 Euro….

    Creating a more homely ambiance with a nice roof lining is an almost neglected way.

    1. Modern Aston Martins come with Alcantara roof lining as standard. This added a lot to the appeal of the lovely early DB9’s cabin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.