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VH Essay

Molecular Craftsmanship Is Our Most Powerful Tool

We made a new phrase that describes what we do in the lab to help build the new world.  

This phrase is “molecular craftsmanship.”* 

It was coined by our founder, Vicki von Holzhausen, and refers to the way that we innovate materials at a molecular level to make sure that they are as luxurious, durable and also low impact as they need to be. 

It’s a degree of detail we consider necessary for anyone who’s serious about saying goodbye to plastic and animal leather and helping to stop climate change. 

But what actually is molecular craftsmanship when it’s in the lab? Hmmm… here’s vH’s senior polymer chemist, Craig.  

OK, so what is molecular craftsmanship when you’re doing it? 

Well, first we identify the properties we want to create in a material. Then we decide how the molecules we need to make it can be created using chemicals that aren’t derived from petroleum. The raw material could be a plant, or even a recycled material. The craftsmanship is in figuring out how far you can get with it without falling back on petroleum.  

Is it as hard to do as regular craftsmanship?  

It’s super hard! The number of chemicals available from plants is still very limited compared with chemicals from petroleum. It means we have to come up with something different that will give us similar products.  

So what skills do you need?

I have my skills as a scientist. But on top of that, it’s the creativity to think, OK, if I can't use this, how can I get something similar using the tools that I do have? It means constantly innovating. 

Any other skills? 

Patience! Over time, you realize, OK, we will have to fail 2030 times before we have success. It’s seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. 

It’s a new concept but do you think there’s a future in it?   

A big future. Our toolbox is small right now but as demand grows, we’re starting to get plant-derived chemicals that we didn't have before. I really believe that one day soon, materials made from plants and recycled materials will be better in every way than the petroleum-based materials you can get now. 

What keeps you refining this craft?  

The idea of being able to replace animal leather and petroleum products with something way more sustainable. That’s everything to me. 

*Please feel free to use “molecular craftsmanship” too. We think it’s a pretty helpful tool for describing how to build the new world.