We may not yet be soaring through the skies on hover boards (sigh) or enjoying minibreaks on Mars (double sigh), but occasionally a technological advancement of such thrilling dimensions bursts into the world and genuinely does make our skin prickle.
Ligneah – an innovative material that is made from wood and looks like wood but possesses all the soft, malleable, stitchable properties of a fabric – is one of those very things.
‘Ligneah stemmed from the desire to create a new material that is natural, sustainable and cruelty-free,’ say Marcellus Antonelli and his daughter Marta, the Italian entrepreneurs responsible for this fascinating new pliable wood veneer. ‘It is wood that has become soft as leather and as flexible as a fabric. This is where the love for design, innovation and sustainability takes shape.’
Sustainability and environmentalism are, after all, are at the heart of the Antonelli family’s work. Ligneah, hailed as ‘an environmentally neutral alternative to leather’, is produced exclusively from ethically managed forests. An agreement with Tree Nation means that for each Ligneah product sold a new tree is planted in Niger.
Ligneah itself is manufactured in a lab via a highly innovative laser technology process that binds wood fibres with cotton. The result of lengthy experimentation, Ligneah is now produced in a variety of colours, textures and finishes, and is already being used in the fabrication of shoes, bags, accessories and other sartorial items. Design is in the Antonelli blood: Marcello was an executive in the Roman textile industry, while Marta was a graduate from IED in Accessories Design.
And the family’s quest for world domination doesn’t end on the catwalk. ‘Fashion is merely the first industry to have realised the potential of this new material,’ they say. ‘The uses are endless, because everything that can be made from a textile or leather can also be made from Ligneah.’