More of us than ever are turning to a cruelty-free way of living, and it’s not just about what we eat, it’s about the clothes we wear and the items we buy to enhance our spaces. Meet the ethical pioneers who are working hard to make your home and wardrobe a plant-based paradise, without compromising on style.
Environmental concerns were a key driver for Vicki von Holzhausen, a former car designer whose eponymous company has developed vegan leathers that are used on fashion accessories and in cars. “I’m a problem solver by nature and I’ve always loved design,” she explains. “In the car industry, I was very interested in environmentalism… about the impact people had on the environment.”
Concerned by how much wastage there was when using animal hides to upholster vehicles, von Holzhausen “saw a huge opportunity for something different, not just for cars but for fashion. I thought, ‘There has to be another way, there’s no need to use animal skins any more.’”
In 2016, von Holzhausen and her team began working on what would become Technik-Leather, made from post-consumer plastic and plants and used on bags and accessories. This was followed by “buttery soft” Banbū Leather and Struktur Leather, engineered “for extreme wear” such as car interiors. Updates and new leathers are in the works. “We are an innovation company, we’re constantly leapfrogging our own work,” says von Holzhausen.
Style and Substance
A long-time vegetarian and latterly vegan, von Holzhausen has strong views on livestock production, “the massive amount of resources it takes to grow a cow,” and on our dependence on plastics. To address the latter she has created leathers that are “based on plant chemistry, not petroleum chemistry,” and a backing component that actively accelerates biodegradation in a zero-oxygen environment should a bag be discarded.
Not that this is likely to be a common occurrence. von Holhausen believes shoppers choose her bags, backpacks, laptop cases, and accessories “because they actually care about style more than anything. Our clients love the look and function of our bags. So many people think our bags are leather, not just because of the material but the old artisan techniques we use, the stitching, the painted edges. The fact that they are sustainable is an added bonus.”