In 1970, after years of experimentation, Toray Industries scientist Dr. Miyoshi Okamoto succeeded in creating the world's first ultra-microfiber. A few months later, his colleague Dr. Toyohiko Hikota perfected a new process capable of transforming Dr. Okamoto's invention into an amazing new fabric, a non-woven material that combined luxury with unprecedented performance.
This fabric, which was later trademarked as Ultrasuede®, combines the rich aesthetics of a suede surface with benefits no animal product could ever offer. Ultrasuede® is soft, supple and sensuous to the touch. Yet it's also resistant to stains and discoloration. It's even machine-washable or dry-cleanable.
The magic of Ultrasuede® begins with ultra-microfibers so fine they cannot be seen by the human eye, ultra-microfibers so microscopically minute a single pound of them could be stretched from the earth to the moon—and back.
Transforming ultra-microfibers this fine into a practical fabric demands a complex, multipatented process, part of which is summarized in the illustrations shown here.
Ultrasuede® begins with polymer ultra-microfibers spun so light and fine, a strand measuring more than 50 miles long would weigh less than a gram.
These ultra-microfibers are extruded through protective spinnerets, creating what we call the "Islands in the Sea" configuration, with ultra-microfiber filaments "afloat" in each strand.
These strands are then transformed via a complex process that includes ironing, curling, cutting and needle-punching into a soft, felt-like material that is then impregnated with a special adhesive binder.
Once the material is formed, the protective polymer coating is dissolved with a solvent and the material is further processed to create a fabric that is, almost paradoxically, as soft and supple as it is strong and durable. Magnified thousands of times, this cross-section reveals the densely complex yet mono-layer structure of Ultrasuede®.
The end result: Ultrasuede®, a richly complex non-woven fabric offering an unparalleled combination of luxury, appeal, performance and ease of care for an extraordinary array of applications.
The Ultrasuede® story began with a series of revolutionary discoveries. It continues today with equally innovative R&D activities conducted at Toray's R&D center in Japan. The R&D center in Shizuoka, Japan, one of the most advanced facilities of its kind anywhere in the world, provides solutions for requests for technical assistance and application support from designers and manufacturers on every continent. Its mission: To make sure Ultrasuede® remains the fabric of the future.
Ultrasuede® manufacturing facilities are ISO 9001-certified for quality and ISO 14001-certified for safety and environmental protection.