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Alcantara is a tradename given to a composite material used to cover surfaces and forms in a variety of applications. It can be described as an artificial substitute for suede leather. The material was developed in the early 1970s by Miyoshi Okamoto, a scientist working for the Japanese chemical company Toray Industries, and was based on the same technology of their other product Ultrasuede, produced around the same time. Around 1972, a joint venture between Italian chemical company ENI and Toray formed Alcantara SpA in order to manufacture and distribute the material. The company is now owned by Toray and Mitsui.
Alcantara is created via the combination of an advanced spinning process (producing very low denier bi-component "islands in the sea" fibre) and chemical and textile production processes (needle punching, buffing, impregnation, extraction, finishing, dyeing, etc.) which interact with each other.
Alcantara is composed of about 68% polyester and 32% polyurethane  giving increased durability and stain resistance. The appearance and tactile feel of the material is similar to that of suede, and it may be incorrectly identified as such.
Alcantara has applications including furniture, clothing, jewelry, helmets and automotive (such as in seating, dash trimming and headliners in many high-end OEM automotive suppliers). Alcantara is being used currently as a flame retardant driver seat covering material for Formula One race cars, including the Williams Formula One 2011 FW33 car. It is also used in the ear pads material for the high-end, audiophile headphones Sennheiser HD800.