A resource from Toyota Motor Corp.'s homeland is providing a fabric treatment that gives the new '07 Camry sedan's plain cloth seats a silkier, softer feel.
Already found on some of Toyota's microvans in Japan, cloth seats treated with the Fraichir process will be standard on 4-cyl. Camry XLE models sold in the U.S.
Fraichir (pronounced fray-sheer) is a brand name used in women's and children's apparel in Japan for at least a decade.
However, the history of its main ingredient goes back hundreds of years, Paul Williamsen, curriculum development manager-University of Toyota, tells Ward's during a media preview for the '07 Camry.
“It's been understood that silk workers have much softer, gentler skin on their hands than workers in other industries,” Williamsen says.
The uncommon softness comes from washing the silk, he says, unlike the washing of other textiles, namely cotton and linen, which causes hands to become rough and dry.
Research by Japanese scientists revealed that washing the silk removes the byproduct sericin from the fabric into the water. Sericin, also known as serin, can be found in powdered form in high-end Japanese cosmetics and is a natural moisturizer.
“It's one of those things that has made Japanese women's cosmetics very appealing worldwide, even by people who didn't know why it was so much more comfortable to wear all day long,” Williamsen says.
The Camry XLE's door panels and seats treated with the Fraichir process have the same fabric thread count and composition as Camry's standard seats, Williamsen says.
“The fabric is a conventional automotive blend,” he says. “What's special is the individual fibers are treated with the sericin silk byproduct before being dyed and woven. Fraichir is the trade name that describes the process of putting this coating permanently on the threads.”
However, the coating does not add stain-fighting capabilities to the material.
“The purpose of the treatment is just to enhance the feel,” Williamsen says, noting it generally reduces irritation in people with sensitive skin and provides comfort for long drives.
Treating the car-seat fabric with the Fraichir process does add piece cost, although Williamsen cannot specify how much, which is why the process is available only on the top-trim level, he says.
Williamsen believes it is the first time an auto maker has offered Fraichir-treated fabric in models sold in the U.S., even though the supplier of the material makes it available to other car companies.
He says Toyota is considering offering the treated seat fabric in other Toyota vehicles in the U.S., depending on its appeal to Camry customers.