Silk road

Maserati claims an exclusive luxury edge with the development of silk interior fi nishes

JOHN CAREY

FOR Maserati, an insect is about to become an important participant in the Italian brand’s positioning plan. The common silkworm, with some help from the textile experts at Zegna, will give the Trident brand a sharp point of difference from the luxury car crowd. So believes the man in charge, Maserati CEO Harald Wester.

A silk interior featured in last year’s Quattroporte Zegna Limited Edition, of which Maserati built just 100 examples. Though the premium charged for them was hefty, German-born Wester says they sold “in a couple of days”.

Maserati had long been eyeing Zegna as a possible collaborator as it sought to “add even more luxury to our brand than what the car itself stands for,” says Wester.

From late this year, a Zegna silk interior is to become a regular Maserati option. No other brand can offer a silk-lined interior, and this uniqueness will set it apart from the others.

“Nobody really wants to be embedded in a sea of sameness,” Wester says, pointing out that many of his customers don’t understand or care about features such as lane departure warning.

Silk, on the other hand, they understand.

The process of developing weaves to withstand use in a car wasn’t simple. “From an engineering point of view, to develop a very sophisticated feature on an engine or to get this fabric was the same amount of intelligence, know-how and experience,” Wester insists.

Initial trials, using standard Zegna silks wrapped around Maserati seats, were not promising.

“Silk is the finest and most expensive raw material you can buy” – Maserati CEO Harald Wester

LEAF MUNCHER

SILK is a thread excreted by the white Bombyx mori (which means “ silkworm of the mulberry tree” in Latin) to spin its cocoon. The Chinese, who have been raising silkworms for 5000 years, are world leaders in silk production. Zegna buys all its silk from China, but ships it to Italy for spinning and weaving. By coincidence, China has become Maserati’s biggest market, ahead of North America.

COMING SOON

THE Zegna silk option will arrive in Australia late this year, with the MY2016 It’s Zeg na Ghibli and Quattroporte. likely to cost about $ 6000, model and an option in Maserati Levante from depending on variant. Silk will also be SUV the moment it goes into production Turin March be an option in every in Tu r in around next year. Eventually, the Zegna silk interior will model Maserati makes.

“To be honest, after not even 10 percent of the duty cycle of wear getting in an out of a car and sitting in the seat, it looked like Swiss cheese. It did not work.”

It took Zegna’s technical department a year to develop silk fabrics Maserati could use for seats, door panels and roof liner. It isn’t anything like the material to make a suit or shirt; it’s three and a half times denser. Each interior requires about 12 metres of fabric, compared with a little over three for a typical suit.

“I want to underline, it is not a blend,” adds Wester. “It is 100 percent silk, the finest and the most expensive raw material you can buy. Costs a fortune, and it is applied in a proper way. It fulfils 100 percent of automotive standard; mechanical, thermal, UV resistance, humidity…” Zegna silk-lined Maseratis will be no more or less vulnerable than cars trimmed with other materials.

“A bottle of red wine is a bottle of red wine, and when you spill it into a car it looks like shit afterwards,” says Wester, who’s not a man to mince words. “On polyester, whatever… or on silk. If you have a car which has a relatively lightcoloured leather, if you spill coffee or whatever in it, it’s gone.”

Other carmakers are interested in following Maserati down the silk route, but Maserati’s deal with Zegna means it’s theirs, and theirs alone. “Nobody can copy,” gloats Wester. “Nobody.”

Such exotic exclusivity is what luxury car buyers crave, the executive says. On visits to Shanghai, Dubai and New York to promote the Quattroporte Zegna Limited Edition, he met customers who told him that the run of 100 identical cars was still way too many. They told Wester that real luxury is one of a kind, so the Zegna option for the 2016 Ghibli and Quattroporte will provide scope for customisation.

While the silk inside these cars doesn’t feel especially silky, it doesn’t matter. What’s important to luxury customers, Wester says, is the knowledge that they possess something rare. “Whether this is made up of the finest wool, or made of silk, you don’t really see it. But you know it. And it adds something to your well-being.”

SILK BY THE NUMBERS

SILK is an expensive fabric that has a smooth, soft appearance with a natural sheen, and is one of the strongest natural fibres used today. It has been used in everything from clothing to parachutes, and even bike tyre casings.

Here are some silky numbers:

300 to 900

Metres of silk produced by silkworms to form each cocoon, which is then unravelled to produce the thread

2600BC

When commercial silk production started, in China 24 wheelsmag.com.

100

Kilograms of mulberry leaves consumed to produce a single kilogram of silk

5000

Number of silkworms it takes to make a traditional Japanese kimono