Amongst the exhibitors at the recent Shanghai Show was Italian based luxury textile company, Alcantara. At the event the company showcased a variety of vehicles which had been customised with luxury fabrics. These included a Lotus Nyo, Maserati Granturismo and Maserati MC20, Hongqi LS7 and H9+ ‘Taihe Edition’, as well as a highly customised Red Flag LS7.
We spoke to CEO of Alcantara, Andrea Boragno to learn more about the company’s involvement with the event as well as to discuss its sustainability milestones.
Just Auto (JA): Could you discuss the background of the company?
Andrea Boragno (AB): Alcantara is an Italian company operating internationally in the field of luxury textiles. Automotive is one of the most important markets that we work in, but we work with many other important applications such as boating, aviation, consumer electronics – this is very important because we are a lifestyle brand.
Many years ago, we saw that there was a clear trend worldwide, a demand and a case for customisation. This was happening in almost any business sector and is extremely evident in the automotive industry. This trend is growing.
So, we structured the company in order to be able to provide an extremely customised solution. As a matter of fact, we co-develop, and co-design the final solution together with our customers. We have a team of technical people and designers that get in touch with our customer at the appropriate level – together, they develop the end solution.
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How did the recent Shanghai event go for your company?
The event was extremely interesting. We saw a huge participation compared to the participation we saw before the lockdown. There were more than 1,000 exhibitors, and more than one million visitors.
This event is a very powerful communication platform because it is about the presentation of the automotive industry worldwide.
We are pretty satisfied. We saw an important presence not only for European or American cars [Alcantara OEM customers], but we saw our rising presence also in the Chinese automotive industry. We are happy to see that our product is favourably considered in the Chinese market.
The Chinese industry has grown a lot in terms of volumes and also in terms of quality. The next big step for the Chinese automotive industry will be to grow outside of China; until now it has been investing for a mainly internal market.
To do this they have to qualify; they also have to have some luxury production to upgrade their image and to be successful in the international market. It’s very important to provide the capability of working together as a supplier; the Chinese market is starting to understand that that’s the right way to go.
Could you discuss your favourite interior which was showcased at the event?
The typical application of Alcantara is on the seat, in the dashboard, the door panels, in the pillars sometimes in the steering wheel. An interesting application that we showcased at the event was a Red Flag LS7, where we presented a very customised solution.
China has started to appreciate our approach more in the market, which is the capability of very extreme customised solutions, solutions which provide a mix of functionality and aesthetic; a sense of beauty, a sense of style.
Could you discuss the background on the company being carbon neutral?
Sustainability is becoming much more important in the automotive industry. We have very good directives regarding sustainability. We were the first Italian company to become carbon neutral back in 2009.
When we talk about sustainability, 2009 is like the stone age. No-one was talking about carbon neutrality in 2009. After that we started to have a sustainability report certified on a yearly basis which is an act of transparency.
Since the very beginning we paid a lot of attention to responsible procurement, which means we consider our lifecycle from the cradle to the grave. In other words, we don’t leave the dirty job to other countries and just do the nicer things in our own country.
We consider the whole lifecycle of the car. We assess the behavioural, environmental – and especially the social environmental behaviour of our suppliers. They must comply with the basic regulation of respect of the environment and respect of software. We do audit our major suppliers.
Last year we started to use recycled polyester material as a raw material. It has to be certified in a very serious way. We recently developed a technology which is able to regenerate Alcantara scraps and get the original raw material of polyester.
We highlighted this capability in Venice in May where we had an installation prepared in partnership with MAXXI museum of Rome – we’ve been working with them for a long time.
The co-produced installation included a seed bed on one of the islands. The area was surrounded and protected by a kind of fence built by Alcantara. Which stands to mean that artificial materials, man-made materials, must be used to protect nature, not in conflict with nature.
What are the goals for the company for the rest of this year?
We will continue to grow in the direction that we are growing. We already have a global marketing plan. With the Chinese market, we’re facing a very good opportunity for growth. We’re going to grow significantly this year in the Chinese market, but our potential in China is longer-term.