Range Rover Velar interior design: inside story on the car that cares for cows

We meet the design team tasked with creating high-end leather alternatives for the Range Rover Velar

The car industry loves leather. Established makers rely on the stuff no end for giving interiors a plush, special feel, consuming thousands of hides per day to conform to what they believe buyers consider premium.

But not everyone is sold. Leather is hard, cold and, in the eyes of some, boring. Alternatives are limited, with cloth seats often appearing budget and, save for the odd upmarket brand offering vegan-friendly options, there hasn’t been much innovation in the sector.

• Range Rover Velar review

Until now. Land Rover has decided to offer something new and novel for Range Rover Velar buyers who aren’t interested in the industry’s standard choice. Premium Textile is a posh take on a fabric interior, developed with the knowledge of Danish textile expert Kvadrat. It’s the first interior of its kind to be offered on such a premium vehicle, and it’s unlikely to be the last.

Auto Express was invited along to Kvadrat’s Jutland HQ to see the future of car interiors, and to get an insider’s perspective from Amy Frascella, chief designer for colours and materials at Land Rover.

Challenge Land Rover approached Kvadrat during the Velar’s five-year development process, with a view to creating an interior choice that challenges traditional expectations of what is luxury. “As far as I’m concerned, Kvadrat is the reference in terms of textiles,” Frascella explains.

The Danish firm is more used to supplying materials for high-end hotel furnishings and swish office spaces, and completes thousands of interior design projects each year. Its materials are also used heavily in the fashion world. Yet this isn’t its first automotive project; Kvadrat supplied interior textiles for BMW’s 2009 Vision EfficientDynamics concept, which previewed the i8.

For the Velar, Kvadrat’s effort is a specially developed woollen and polyester textile called Dapple Grey. Found on the seat bolsters, headrests and armrests, it strikes an instantly snug tone compared with cold, hard leather. It feels robust and warm, but above all, it looks modern and in tune with the Velar’s clean character.

Accompanying the Kvadrat material is microfibre suede on the seat inserts, soft-touch diamond-cut PVC veneers and a choice of interior finisher trims: a wooden veneer or carbon fibre with copper wire weave. It’s an eclectic mixture of materials, pieced together confidently as one of the Velar’s top interior trim levels.

A lot of that confidence can be put down to the Velar, claims Frascella. “A year before we kicked off the Velar project we had people calling the studio saying ‘I want to buy an Evoque but I don’t want any leather’,” she tells us. As an all-new Land Rover, the Velar presented a perfect opportunity to meet these customer demands.

Land Rover is under no illusion that the Premium Textile offering isn’t for everyone, but it would be wrong to think that the woollen interior isn’t durable and that it’s out of sync with the brand’s rugged off-road image.

“This is a crafted product, but it still performs, it’s still very premium, and it has a lot of attributes that a lot of other materials don’t have,” claims Frascella, adding that the man-made nature of the textile means that it’s easier to work with and easier to control. As such, Land Rover assures us it is durable and versatile enough to be at home in a car. It’s a much more animal-friendly offering, too, if not quite vegan due to the wool content. That’s something Frascella says is an area of exploration for her team back at base.

CEO Anders Byriel admits the Premium Textile interior is a milestone for Kvadrat. “For us it is very stimulating working in a new space,” he explains. “Now we are investing heavily into the automotive side of the business and hoping to do more projects.”

Byriel is a walking embodiment of the firm’s cool, Scandinavian philosophy, but there is a British angle to the Kvadrat story. The UK accounts for 10 per cent of the firm’s business, and it holds its own interests here in the form of a 30 per cent stake in WooltexUK; the plant in Huddersfield, W Yorks, where the Velar’s Premium Textile materials are made. The factory accounts for roughly half of Kvadrat’s production, with around 200 employees and apprentices on site.

“We work with the world’s elite, with no exceptions,” explains Byriel. “But we want new clients and we want ambitious clients.” His confidence certainly suggests that there’s more in the pipeline for Kvadrat’s car industry efforts beyond the Velar and Land Rover.

Enjoyed that motoring feature? Why not read about how Auto Express joined in on Mitsubishi's 100th year celebrations in another interesting article?

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