Driving trends in custom automotive leather
There are several reasons why leather has helped to shape the landscape of automotive interiors and continues to be sought after: it is durable, long-lasting, and luxuriously tactile. At a time when mass standardisation reigned, cars themselves were luxury items – no optional extras needed. As Henry Ford famously said about his Ford Model T “You can have any colour you want so long as it’s black.”
Nowadays however, automotive consumers expect more choice. Carmakers are pursuing increasingly more sustainable materials to provide environmentally friendly product ranges. Our lowest carbon leather offers a sustainable interior material as well as many customisation options in terms of colour, finish, bespoke requests, and concept car projects – with customisation at scale to support these trends.
In pursuit of cutting-edge design
Staying one-step ahead of a fast-changing automotive industry means we can respond to the desire for more customisable car interiors and continue to remain true to our goal: to create the most sustainable automotive leather.
We saw personalisation as a major trend in our global trends report from Stylus, our research partner in trends intelligence. Partnering with experts to uncover and analyse these emerging consumer trends in turn helps shape us into a better partner for our customers. Prepared with leathers that can meet demands now, but also innovating for what’s to come.
So much inspires us, but what motivates us most as designers is cross-collaboration, particularly across different artistic and design principles. That’s when unique and exciting things happen, and we get to create never-seen before finishes, colours and techniques.
We’ve recently explored more creative ways of applying texture to the leather surface, collaborating with a local artisan textile producer, specialising in traditional lace.
Rather than commissioning dedicated tooling to recreate the lace pattern, we used off-cuts of lace to emboss directly onto our leather. The result brought together two, time-honoured traditional materials and created something new. The intricate lace floral patterns and geometric designs transferred onto the leather surface.
Pioneering the functional and fun
Our design developments are often influenced by customer requests or insights from our research partners. However, we also see innovation as a core element of our role in automotive leather production. Truly creating the leathers of tomorrow.
This may be in the form of investigating new surface effects or testing out more expressive colour applications. Our teams are encouraged to push the boundaries of their leather craft to explore new ideas. We’ve recently experimented with heat-sensitive, colour-changing leathers, candescent metallics, high gloss patents and even rubber touch grips.
From provenance to personalisation
In balance with the demand for custom colours and finishing details, we’ve noticed an increase in trends to celebrate the natural beauty and unique characteristics of the organic raw material with a simplified finishing.
Each hide can tell its own provenance story, especially with Anilines and Nubucks. We can emphasise their natural characteristics with light finishes or different types of dyeing processes to highlight the natural features of the leather instead of covering them up. Over time, leather evolves and ages beautifully, developing a patina, enhancing the individuality of the leather.
Honouring the distinctiveness of the hides in this way becomes a means of natural customisation. Its provenance becomes its personlisation.
The Bentley EXP 100 GT Concept Car
A recent project where natural customisation and bespoke craftsmanship were exemplified was with Bentley on their EXP 100 GT all-electric Concept Car. The car celebrated 100 years of Bentley and explored their vision of the future and how grand touring could look in 2035.
The interior combined sustainable materials with technology, providing an ideal opportunity to explore finishes that would honour the provenance of the hides. The leather trim involved an innovative hand-applied spray technique which allowed the metallic coloured leather surface to blend perfectly with the surrounding metal, showcasing a handcrafted finish. For the seating, soluble dyes were used on aniline leather to add colour but without creating a uniform surface, allowing the natural characteristics of the leather to provide an additional texture feature.
Customisation at scale
Creating a bespoke leather, whether incorporating a patterned design or finished to showcase its natural characteristics is determined by each specific automotive project.
But to provide our customers with the leathers they need in response to consumer demand, the question becomes viability of customisation at scale. Here are a few advancements we’ve invested in recently that are helping to achieve this.
Advanced digital printing
Digitally printing designs onto the surface of the leather allows us to achieve a repeatable, consistent application of pattern for higher volume automotive projects without compromising on custom design.
For a recent production car project, featuring a light leather interior, we adopted a digitally printed approach to darken the leather for the instrument panel to minimise glare in bright driving conditions. The digitally applied gradiated fadeout to the light leather became a repeatable template, which allowed us to achieve a consistent pattern at greater scale.
From a hand-crafted one-off concept car to a repeatable production run, we’re able to scale up the design process, whilst maintaining the bespoke intention.
The art of CNC perforation
Logos, patterns, duo-tone leathers that combine two colours in a single finish. We’ve welcomed all these perforation trends into our design studio. Our process for computer automated perforating allows for customised textured finishing in an easily realisable way.
Trends in colour
And when it comes to colour, inspiration can be infinite. From Pantone’s colour of the year 2022, Very Peri, to the inside of a customer’s jacket, our expert Colour Team can match any reference. Over the years we’ve colour matched an aubergine and the hue of a yellow bag to the interior of a new £1.5million DLS sports car complete with egg-yolk yellow custom-dyed leather interior.
Customisation in collaboration
We’re often asked what the future of automotive interior design looks like. We see technology playing an ever-larger role in the industry, from smart tech to embedded electronics and we believe that leather can play its part in making automotive interiors a sustainable, luxurious and comfortable space to be.
Get in touch with us to discuss your ideas and our current innovations.