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[Herald Interview] Alcantara aims to partner with more Korean firms, lifestyle brands: CEO

TOKYO -- For fashion companies in South Korea, switching to sustainable fabrics remains a far-off goal. While the concept is not unheard of, local consumers don’t yet have enough options to choose from compared with consumers in North America and Europe. 

Yet even here in Korea, the high-quality leather substitute developed by Italian luxury fabric maker Alcantara S.P.A. is a familiar presence – well known as a covering for Lamborgini seats and for Microsoft’s Surface laptop.

“Alcantara is an ingredient brand, not a product manufacturer like Prada or BMW. We don’t make products for final consumers, but this makes our brand, material and value synergize with values of other brand and delivered to the customers,” said Alcantara CEO Andrea Boragno during an interview with The Korea Herald. 

Alcantara CEO Andrea Boragno (Alcantara)
Alcantara CEO Andrea Boragno (Alcantara)

Founded in 1972, Alcantara exports 90 percent of its products. The brand actively partners with firms around the world, from those in the fashion industry to automakers. 

Last week, Alcantara also collaborated with Japanese fashion brand Y’s by Yohji Yamamoto on the release of its Autumn/Winter 2019 capsule collection.

“The show’s design concept well-portrayed Y’s philosophy and Alcantara’s futuristic material interpreted (key elements of Y’s philosophy) through its inimitable soft-touch and versatility,” said Boragno regarding the latest collection. 

Alacantara’s premium leather alternative has been used mainly in luxury automotive, yacht and aircraft interiors. But Boragno stressed that the company plans to expand its partnerships to diverse sectors, including Korean furniture companies and even consumer electronics companies here. 

Alcantara’s collaboration with Japanese fashion brand Y’s by Yohji Yamamoto for the Autumn/Winter 2019 capsule collection (Alcantara)
Alcantara’s collaboration with Japanese fashion brand Y’s by Yohji Yamamoto for the Autumn/Winter 2019 capsule collection (Alcantara)

Currently, Alcantara materials are used for the local sofa brand Torre, as well as for a Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphone cover, a number of Hyundai Motor Genesis models and Kia Motors’ Stinger. 

“Korean consumers are very sensitive to the quality and the ‘Made in Italy’ mark. Korea has a big potential in terms of high quality products and it is an important market for us,” Boragno said.

“There has been constant collaborations from the automotive and fashion sectors, but it will be stretched to lifestyle brand like furniture and consumer electronics,” he added.

The Alcantara fabric is a form of plastic with a small proportion of recycled components, processed in such a way that it is breathable, porous and sturdy like leather, but without any of the disadvantages. 

“Alcantara is a company that makes tailor-made solutions. We can customize our product to any size, thickness and color that our client wants,” he said.

“It is not a cheap alternative and it costs just as much.”

But despite the high production costs, Boragno pointed to the product’s sustainability as one of Alacantara’s strengths in the global market, as well as what he called its “emotional touch.”

“To increase Alcantara’s competitiveness, we have been finding ways to show our value with emotional appeal. Emotional touch of Alcantara material completes our material’s technology, style, design and creativity,” he said. 

To expand within the Asia-Pacific market, Boragno said, the company plans to invest some 300 million euros over the next five years to double its production capacity.

“Ultimately and gradually, we will able to replace leather, the original luxury fabric, with Alcantara material,” he said, adding that its category of production can be stretched indefinitely from fashion to anything that a human can touch. 

By Kim Da-sol (