The global high-end synthetic suede market size was valued at USD 1,106.9 million in 2022. It is estimated to reach USD 2,167.2 million by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 5.41% during the forecast period (2023–2031).
Synthetic suede is a type of leather made from polyester and other plastic blends. These fabrics are brushed, sandblasted, or chemically treated to simulate the appearance and texture of napped leather. Synthetic suede, also known as artificial and faux suede, bears properties similar to natural suede. Synthetic suede was created in the mid-twentieth century, and since then, various performance attributes of the material have considerably improved. Synthetic suede has become increasingly popular not because of its appearance and flexibility but due to its minimal adverse effects on the environment compared to leather. Generating high-end synthetic suede does not involve unethical practices and toxins that might hamper the environment or hurt the sentiments of animal welfare associations.
The fabric continues to evolve, combining high quality and excellent functionality. They are commonly used for high-end belts, automobile seat covers, jacket linings, and designer headwear. The highest quality synthetic suede is simple to sew, maintain, and wear and does not peel, shrink, or split. They are incredibly resilient, require minimal upkeep, and are stain, water, and wind-resistant. Superior synthetic suede is more cost-effective and environmentally benign than natural suede. Consequently, high-end synthetic suede is extensively utilized in apparel and accessory applications and the automotive, fashion, and furniture industries.
The automotive industry is witnessing a shift toward CASE automotive technology, i.e., connected, autonomous, shared, and electric mobility. These new trends are creating substantial opportunities for growth, including demand for vehicle interiors, which not only have an innovative design but also provide greater comfort. Companies in the high-end synthetic suede material industry also leverage the chance to expand their design and manufacturing capabilities for interior automobile materials. For instance, Asahi Kasei Corporation, manufacturing Lamous synthetic suede, acquired Sage Automotive Interiors, a supplier of high-performance textiles for the automotive industry, to strengthen its position in the synthetic suede material market.
Additionally, synthetic suede is becoming a viable material for luxury auto carmakers. Lamous, synthetic suede manufactured by Asahi Kasei, is already used in more than 100 car models of high-end cars globally. Similarly, Toray's Ultrasuede and Alcantara are being utilized by automakers such as Toyota, Audi, and BMW, which are further anticipated to bolster the demand for synthetic suede in the automotive material market.
Animal rights activists have been pushing the fashion industry to reduce the use of natural suede in favor of synthetic suede for a while now. Fashion designers focus more on creating eco-friendly designs with a more luxurious look and feel. They are also focused on being ethical and are slowly moving toward more ethical options for producing their products. Similarly, the furniture industry is witnessing a trend of synthetic suede upholstered furniture. The current momentum of consumers adopting veganism has inspired interior designers to develop vegan interiors keeping in sync with the rising consumer demand for ethical and eco-friendly products. End-users are slowly and steadily adopting materials made from apple waste, coconut, and pineapple, to name a few. This is further expected to drive the demand for high-end synthetic suede.
High-end synthetic suede has garnered much attention from luxury automakers, fashion designers, and consumer electronics manufacturers. However, some key players must still incorporate the material for their products. The leather industry still occupies a prominent place in the industrial maps of developed countries. For example, the U.S. leather industry still has a considerable growth rate and experiences a significant demand from the footwear and fashion industry. Though numerous initiatives have been undertaken to restrict the demand for leather, the decline in the U.S. leather industry is visible. However, this decline could be more pronounced. Additionally, leather is primarily seen as a symbol of luxury globally. The leather industry is still multi-billion-dollar, and some countries still use leather on a large scale, which restricts the growth of the market.
High-end synthetic suede is extensively used across the automotive, fashion, and furniture industries. However, the market has numerous opportunities to increase its penetration across other end-users. Some industries have started exploring synthetic suede use in their production processes. For example, in 2018, Microsoft launched its Surface Laptop 2. The laptop is covered by synthetic suede on its entire palm rest and lower chassis, provided by Alcantara S.p.A. Similarly, in 2020, Embraer announced that the company is working with Porsche to create ten pairs of matching Embraer aircraft and Porsche cars, in which the plane would have a roof lining of Alcantara suede similar to Porsche. Therefore, there is a vast array of opportunities for growth for the market across different end-users.
The global market is segmented by product and application.
Based on product, the global market is divided into woven and non-woven high-end synthetic suede.
The non-woven segment is responsible for the most significant market share and is anticipated to exhibit a CAGR of 5.98% over the forecast period. Non-woven high-end synthetic suede is the one that does not have any interwoven strands but does have an organized internal structure. Non-woven high-end synthetic suede combines fibers and chemicals, pressure, and heat into a fabric-like material. Some advantages of using non-woven fabric include a high level of uniformity, dimensional stability, consistency in high-temperature applications, and high tear and tensile strength. Non-woven synthetic suede is usually lighter and weaker as compared with woven ones. Most non-woven materials are only used for single-use applications and are considered for producing durable clothing.
Woven high-end synthetic suede is manufactured by interlacing two or more threads on a wrap and a weft. Woven fabric has been used for ages, offering better customization and functionality than its counterpart. Some of the advantages of using woven high-end synthetic suede include a high return on investment (ROI), it is sturdier and stiffer due to its lightweight, it is weather-resistant, and it requires low maintenance. The market for woven high-end synthetic suede currently accounts for a mere share of the market but is anticipated to pick up pace shortly.
Based on application, the global market is segmented into automotive, fashion, furniture, and others.
The automotive segment owns the highest market share and is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 5.31% during the forecast period. Synthetic suede manufacturers such as Toray Industries and Asahi Kasei have almost doubled their capacities to cater to the rising demand for synthetic suede in automotive upholstery. Luxury car automakers highly prefer synthetic suede due to its durability and lightweight. Apart from this, the synthetic suede market is also expected to be driven by an increasing trend of electric vehicles. There is a need for a reduction in the weight of electric vehicles to increase their fuel efficiencies, which is further anticipated to fuel the growth of the market in the automotive industry. In addition, synthetic suede manufacturers collaborate with electric vehicle manufacturers to showcase their products and technologies. For instance, Asahi Kasei and GLM Co., Ltd. jointly developed a concept car named AKXY. The seat skin has been made using Lamous, a microfiber synthetic suede manufactured by Asahi Kasei.
Faux suede, microfiber suede, and vegan suede are other names for synthetic suede, and it has established a significant presence in the fashion sector. The material that was once deemed cheap and low quality compared to leather is now finding its space in the fashion industry on the grounds of ethics and sustainability. Fashion designers globally are looking for a material that is not only free from animal cruelty but is also sustainable. In addition, global brands in the fashion industry are increasingly using synthetic suede for manufacturing their products. For example, Puma launched an eco-friendly shoe with a synthetic suede upper from Toray Industries, Inc. Furthermore, since synthetic suede made up of plastic is not biodegradable, companies are now switching to suede material made up of raw materials that are comparatively more sustainable than plastics.
Based on region, the global market is bifurcated into North America, Europe, the U.K., China, Asia-Pacific and Japan, and Rest-of-the-World.
Europe is the most significant global market shareholder and is anticipated to exhibit a CAGR of 5.83% during the forecast period. The Europe region is the pioneer in technological innovation and research and development. The region quickly adapts to the changing market dynamics, which makes it a leader in terms of growth as well as revenue. In addition, Europe is marked by industry giants operating in the market, such as Alcantara S.p.A., Toray Industries, Inc., and Miko Srl. European countries also stay ahead in luxury car production, wherein synthetic suede is utilized the most. Some of the top car brands having their production base in Europe are Ferrari, Fiat, Volvo, BMW, and Porsche.
Additionally, Europe is one of the top regions in terms of footwear and apparel production. There is an ongoing trend of replacing natural leather and suede due to the beneficial properties of synthetic materials such as synthetic leather and suede. These materials are also preferred due to the high demand from the population for textiles and fabrics that enhance the product's aesthetic appeal. Therefore, the factors mentioned above propel the market growth in the region.
Asia-Pacific and Japan is projected to exhibit a CAGR of 6.20% over the forecast period. The region is marked by leading high-end synthetic suede manufacturers such as Toray Industries Inc., Asahi Kasei Corporation, and Seiren Co., Ltd. In addition, the region is slowly advancing in terms of industrialization and catering to the needs of consumers for luxurious and aesthetically appealing products. Advanced industrial advancements, investments for dedicated R&D facilities, and the development of synthetic materials and fabrics are some of the primary drivers estimated to drive the market in the region. However, countries in Asia-Pacific and Japan are still in their developing phases. Numerous countries, such as India, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, need better infrastructure for manufacturing and are mainly dependent on imports. Furthermore, a country like India is among the leading producers and exporters of natural leather, which hampers the growth of synthetic leather substitutes.
In North America, the rising awareness about the potential threats associated with leather production has led to a surge in demand for synthetic materials. The fashion designers operating in the region have also started to adopt synthetic suede to send a strong message of ethics and sustainability. A study conducted by a non-profit organization named Materials Innovation Initiative (MII) in 2021 concluded that more than 50% of Americans prefer cruelty-free leather. Also, the participants in the study mentioned that they refrained from buying animal leather as it made them feel uncomfortable. Such factors drive market growth in the region. Some of North America's key manufacturers and suppliers are the Mitchell Group, Tapis Corp, and Toray Ultrasuede America, Inc.
The market in the U.K. is expected to grow significantly due to massive automotive, fashion, and furnishing demand. Although natural leather continues to make up a sizeable share of the U.K. market, the leather business is only expanding slowly because tanning and producing leather necessitates killing animals. On the other hand, the synthetic suede market is witnessing massive growth as it does not involve toxins in its production process and has better properties than leather. Additionally, consumers becoming more conscious of ethics is an essential factor associated with the growth of the market in the U.K. In the past decade, the number of vegan people in the U.K. has increased by 360%, fuelling the growth of materials and fabrics that do not involve animal cruelty.
The Rest-of-the-World market comprises South America and the Middle East and Africa. The region is witnessing quick industrialization, which is expected to bolster the demand for synthetic suede during the forecast period. Global players are also looking to expand their bases in the Middle East and Africa and South American countries to increase their geographical footprints. Furthermore, countries in the Rest-of-the-World are witnessing increased spending on luxurious products. Although natural leather is abundant in these countries, with rising consciousness related to environment and ethics, the demand for high-end synthetic suede is estimated to pick up pace in the region.
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