Fast-lane fabric manufacturer Alcantara – more usually known for supplying Ferrari and Aston Martin supercars with materials suited to their high-end interiors – launched a fashion exhibition in London this week, in collaboration with UK-based designers hand-picked by global design network Not Just A Label (NJAL).

The idea was to test the high-tech luxury faux suede material’s versatility away from its usual trimming role in cars, yachts, aeroplanes and furniture, so Alcantara approached NJAL to propose which designers should come onboard for the project. 'It was important they were open to adopting new materials in their work,' says NJAL CEO and founder, Stefan Siegel. 'Like Fannie Schiavoni, who is known for her chain-mail jewellery for big celebrities like Rihanna. They all had to present an idea and we picked the best ten to fly to Italy to work with Alcantara’s designers to then develop their ideas.'   

The results are free to view at Protein Studios’ ground-floor space in Shoreditch in east London for a week (until 20 July) and include a dramatically-structured coat with copper mesh interwoven into the Alcantara by Sadie Clayton, a beautiful geometric flower-like hanging objet d’art by Jule Waibel and an interlocking modular dress by Lazerian. Designer/maker Liam Hopkins from Lazerian says he was inspired by the way Alcantara is made for the construction of his dress. 'One of the things I found out was that Alcantara kind of explode one of their raw materials into multiple particles and then bring it back together to make the fabric strong,' he enthuses. 'So I wanted to take a form of a dress, explode it and then bring it back together as one. My idea was to potentially 3D scan someone to capture their form and through this process alter the form of each section.'

While the exhibition does not directly signal Alcantara’s entry into the fashion business, CEO Andrea Boragno was excited by its possibilities, as he concludes: 'This is something new and different from the usual uses for Alcantara, which is good, and the automotive industry is moving towards a more lifestyle approach – so this show offers a different standpoint and [perhaps] an opportunity.'