INSIDE GOODWOOD FESTIVAL OF SPEED WITH ALCANTARA
A MATERIAL THAT IS ANYTHING BUT MATERIALISTIC
'That's the kennels over there,' Mick said throwing a thumb over his shoulder, gesticulating to the grandiose, sublimely symmetrical 18th century club house. Mick was doing 90MPH in an Abarth 124 Spider with the top down in the rain. I was riding shotgun. 'Just think, a building like that, just to house a load of dogs,' he added. Of course by dogs Mick was referring to the hunting hounds of Charles, Third Duke of Richmond, I assumed.
I was here at the hill climb of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, courtesy of Alcantara. Although as John Robertson from Everyday Man poignantly asked me back in the Abarth pits, 'did you see a hill anywhere?' I guess The mild incline at The Goodwood Festival of Speed doesn't quite conjure the same majesty. The Festival of Speed (FOS) has the characteristics of any other festival you might picture in your mind’s eye. It's muddy under foot, (how odiously smug I felt with my brown brogues next to John's once white, now sod-sullied sneakers) a man arbitrarily commentates about his lunch over a distorted tannoy speaker and there is one solitary toilet within 12,000 acres.
'Ask us anything you want?' said the diminutive Federica, a Communication Specialist from the Alcantara team who had flown in from Milan, home to Alcantara Headquarters, to dutifully navigate us through the Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Lexus showrooms. 'Can you believe a guy decided to put a doorway through the famous Da Vinci Last Supper Fresco at the Santa Marie delle Grazie?' I posed. Her smile dropped and she seemingly resigned herself to a tough day ahead. Best keep strictly Alcantara then. But what would be the right questions to ask Alcantara? What is Alcantara? What are the benefits of having the interiors of a car lined with Alcantara? Is it an eco-conscious brand? What does it feel like? Is it durable? What is the fastest land mammal? (Sorry that's an Airplane joke).
Firstly, Alcantara is composed of about 68% polyester and 32% polyurethane, giving increased durability and stain resistance. Founded in 1972, it is the synthesis of high tech and craftsmanship, and yes it has a certificate on the wall saying it's 100% Carbon Neutral. It's a fire retardant material which makes it conducive for Formula 1 cars especially. However, it's not exclusive to the car industry, an increasing number of luxury fashion brands such as Swarovski have incorporated Alcantara into their designs. Lifestyle brands such as German powerhouse Femira have ameliorated their beds with Alcantara. Dimore Studio has upholstered many of their creations and enhanced their consumer experience with the Milanese brand.
It's an inviting texture, you want to caress back and forth, much like a two-year old wants to play with the head of a toothbrush. It has undeniable tangibility - warm sensibility. When I stepped cautiously into the Lexus LC 500H, I felt immediately cossetted, warmly submerged - wrapped in some kind of Alcantara cocoon. Alcantara is everything that is emblematic of Italian design. It's on the vanguard of innovation, it doesn't sacrifice aesthetics for functionality, but at the same time, strives to demarcate its position in the market by aligning itself with other brands (Maserati, Agarth to name a few) who share their passion for forward-leaning ideas. A material that is anything but materialistic.