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Ultrasuede is the trade name for a synthetic microfiber fabric invented in 1970 by Dr. Miyoshi Okamoto, a scientist working for Toray Industries. In Japan it is sold under the brand name Ecsaine. It's an ultra-microfiber. It is often described as an artificial substitute for suede leather. The fabric is multifunctional: it is used in fashion, interior decorating, automotive and other vehicle upholstery, and industrial applications, such as protective fabric for electronic equipment. It is also a very popular fabric in the manufacture of footbags (also known as hacky sacks) and juggling balls. Other manufacturers such as Sensuede and Majilite also produce similar product lines of synthetic microfiber suede construction.
Fabric content ranges from 80% polyester non-woven (100% recycled ultra-microfiber) and 20% non-fibrous polyurethane to 65% polyester and 35% polyurethane depending on the product line. Ultrasuede feels like natural suede, but it is resistant to stains and discoloration; it can be washed in a washing machine. It has a woven fabric surface, but resists pilling or fraying because it is combined with a polyurethane foam in a non-woven structure. As with its Italian sister fabric, Alcantara, automotive grade Ultrasuede meets OEM specifications as well as FMVSS302 flammability requirements for automotive use as well as it being virtually identical on both sides, making it somewhat reversible.
Ultrasuede has applications in high-end fashion including shoes, interior furnishings, industrial use, and marine & automotive (such as in seating, dash trimming and headliners in many high-end OEM automotive suppliers).
Ultrasuede vs. Alcantara
What is the difference between Ultrasuede (as it is known in the US and a registered trademark of Toray Ultrasuede (America), Inc., the U.S.-based marketing arm for the synthetic suede) and Alcantara (made by Alcantara S.p.A which is 70% owned by Toray Industries, Inc.)? Both were created in the 1970s.
Toray, positioned Alcantara® and Ultrasuede® as global brands for all applications around the world. Alcantara®, made in Italy, and Ultrasuede®, made in Japan, respectively embody the product and conceptual aspects of their production centers, with under separate management, Alcantara® by Alcantara S.p.A. and Ultrasuede® by Toray’s Ecsaine Business Department.
The two materials, Alcantara® and Ultrasuede®, share the same technology, developed by Toray scientist, the late Miyoshi Okamoto, in 1970, that remains unrivaled even today. Through the years, the brands built their respective identities.
Alcantara S.p.A. is based in Italy and the Alcantara® material is completely "Made in Italy". The material is manufactured at the plant located in Rome’s suburb. Major changes have been developed on the original base technology in terms of technical know-how, production, research and development and sustainability issues and tailor made solutions. Further, Alcantara®, under its mainly Italian management, has succeeded in building a unique worldwide reputation as a European luxury brand. As a consequence, Alcantara S.p.A. decided to promote Alcantara® directly in the Japanese market by itself.
The Ultrasuede® brand was originally established in the U.S. market with Toray’s production in Japan. Under the new brand policy, it will be supported by Japanese technology and promoted under Toray’s corporate brand worldwide as the cool image of a Made in Japan tag. Ecsaine Department of Toray will entirely handle the products.
In the meantime, the popular Ecsaine® brand will continue to be sold in Japan for applications other than automotive such as fashion and interior.
Due to lack of brand recognition, the term 'Ultrasuede' has been used to describe most all microfiber suedes on the market.
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- Robert Kanigel Faux real: genuine leather and 200 years of inspired fakes, National Academies Press, 2007 ISBN 0-309-10236-7 p. 169
- Ultrasuede Soft
- Ultrasuede Ambiance
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- "Toray to Expand Man-Made Suede "Alcantara" Facilities in Italy". theautochannel.com.
- "Toray Announces New Brand Strategy for Global Business of Alcantara® and Ultrasuede® | NEWS | TORAY". cs2.toray.co.jp. Retrieved 2017-02-08.