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Six Brands Leading the Cruelty-Free Charge

"Using leather was not a way forward"

Vicki von Holzhausen

Three years ago, when Vicki von Holzhausen started her eponymous line of handbags and accessories, she knew it had to be sustainable. She had been a designer for Audi and Mercedes in Europe, so she was thinking about the future and how we would all live in it. “The auto industry’s trying to solve these big-picture problems,” says von Holzhausen. “I felt like I needed to bring a solution to the table.” But once she started sourcing leather for her brand, she realized that the issue was far deeper than just finding ethical leather. It was about creating something better than leather. “Using leather was not a way forward,” says von Holzhausen, who began searching for new materials. “Even if you think it might be sustainable, it really might not be the case.” So she circled back to the auto industry, and using her technical design background, she trademarked Technik-Leather, a high-performance fabric that could be suited for cars. It’s stain-, scratch-, and water-resistant and is just as beautiful and durable as leather without being as heavy. Ninety-nine percent of the solvents used to create the material are also recycled in the process. And those are just some of the benefits. What von Holzhausen really wants to do is change the perception of leather for the future. “The idea that leather is luxury is interesting because in a lot of ways, leather is actually really common. You can get every grade of leather because it’s just a by-product,” explains von Holzhausen. “Our material is more advanced and much more difficult to create. It’s not produced infinitely, so it is more valuable.” Adding products with value has always been a core mission for von Holzhausen, who keeps her line highly refined: She’s not a big believer in a huge collection; instead, she keeps her focus on a few key pieces that are well researched and well designed—pieces that make meaningful impact for the planet and for us.

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