Toray Ultrasuede: Japanese Innovation

Benita Singh 

Ultrasuede, a synthetic micro-fiber invented by Toray, has been giving leather a run for its money since its creation decades ago.

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As one of the world's leading fashion capitals, Tokyo is renowned for its avant-garde designs and creative use of textiles. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the constantly changing fashion industry, a deeper look at the production of some of the most popular textiles coming out of Tokyo reveals the incredible innovation that goes into creating their unique fabrics. 

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The most populous metropolitan city in the world, Tokyo hosts more than 50 of the world's Fortune 500 companies. Recognized as a global hub for technology, fashion, and street culture, the city's restaurants have been recognized with the most Michelin stars of any location in the world. The architectural landscape boasts contemporary and modern design with the Tokyo Skytree being the second tallest structure globally.

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Despite its modernity, the city does not neglect its traditional roots and is still home to numerous parks and gardens. Streets are lined with Sakura - Cherry Blossom trees - and when they bloom, crowds fill gardens to practice a custom of Hanami - picnicking under the lush pink leaves, and celebrating the cherry blossoms in bloom. From afar, the majestic and iconic Mount Fuji stands over the city skyline, creating a beautiful contrast between nature and technology.

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Toray, Japan's largest manufacturer of synthetic fibers today, was established in 1926 as a fibers and textiles producer. By 1941, Toray introduced Nylon 6, just three years after DuPont's Nylon was invented. In 1970, scientist Dr. Miyoshi Okamoto introduced Ultrasuede, an ultra-microfiber, as an alternative to natural suede.

Similar in texture and feel, yet resistant to stains and discolorations, Ultrasuede possesses qualities that make it an optimal choice in a handful of industries. The versatile nature of Ultrasuede has allowed for its application in fashion, interior decorating, automotive upholstery and more.

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It is said that the creation of Ultrasuede would not have been possible without the personal creativity of Okamoto and corporate innovation of Toray. Toray implemented a policy, which allowed its scientists to spend time on their own projects under company funding, without the supervision of upper management. Similar Japanese companies at the time found the concept of giving employees freedom to perform personal research difficult to apply successfully.

Ultrasuede is said to be the product of "a spinning technique invented by Miyoshi Okamoto while meditating on a whirlpool." Protected with 250 patents, 100 of which are in the US, Ultrasuede's production secrets have long been a mystery.

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Today, Ultrasuede is created through innovative recycling technology from Toray. In a mission to make the fabric "both inherently beautiful and responsibly engineered," Ultrasuede is made with 100% recycled ultra-microfiber reconstituted purely from post-industrial materials. This recycled Ultrasuede continues to deliver the same level of performance as its traditionally manufactured predecessors. The next generation of Ultrasuede has arrived - beautiful and durable as ever before.