What On Earth Is Alcantara?

Lamborghini Alcantara

A Lamborghini posted in front of the Italian Embassy. Not shown: Alcantara

Washington, D.C. – We will, of course, get to the answer in a minute. In the interim, for lack of anything else going on this past Wednesday, I rang the doorbell at the Italian Embassy in order to provide you, Dear Reader, a brief glimpse into the exclusive, high-end world that is Alcantara. Competing for my attention was Milan Design Week, which – unfortunately – was occurring at the same time. But Milan would have required an airplane, while the Italian Embassy required little more than a Nav app and, er, an invitation.

Alcantara Maserati

Alcantara is also a supplier to Maserati.

In Washington to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Earth Day (has it been that long since Earth received its own day?), Andrea Boragno, Alcantara’s chairman and CEO, hosted a breakfast and press briefing. You may know Alcantara as the interior covering of choice for any number of high-end and/or high performance carmakers, including the usual suspects: Lamborghini, Maserati and Ferrari. Those associations were underscored by the two Lambos on prominent display in front of the embassy; even a guy with ‘readers’ was hard-pressed to miss them.

Of course, Alcantara’s mission wasn’t to sell us on Alcantara; its outstanding growth curve would seem to suggest it sells itself. Instead, it was to underscore the brand’s ongoing commitment to improving the environment (one not shared, presumably, with Lamborghini). Alcantara, whose texture can vary but is most often seen as a suede-like material used on steering wheels, dashboards and seat inserts, is wholly synthetic. And in that it is synthetic, its manufacture involves the use of chemicals and dyes that don’t follow – and in the immediate future won’t constitute – an environmental-friendly regimen. Under the direction of Boragno, however, Alcantara commits a portion of its (substantial) profits to the purchase of carbon credits, and is making an increasingly concerted effort to reduce the energy necessary to produce it.

Of course, Alcantara can be found in something other than your Audi (Mr. Boragno drives an S7), Maserati or Lamborghini. Much of it is sold to the fashion and furniture industries, while consumer electronics constitutes a growth niche that is quickly becoming far more than a niche. We, of course, asked about sport jackets for the automotive press; Mr. Boragno, dressed in a blue pinstripe, didn’t see that as likely. If they should ask, let GQ know that we’re on it…

The 2015 Earth Day celebration will take place on the Washington Mall beginning today, April 17th, and will conclude at 6 p.m. this Sunday, April 19th. In this commemoration/celebration Alcantara is partnered with the World Bank’s Connect4Climate, Earth Day Network and the Global Poverty Project.