For California native Vicki von Holzhausen, the road to creating a fashion brand started rather unconventionally. After spending more than a decade in Europe working as an automotive designer for brands such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz, she took her lifelong interest in style and married it with her passion for protecting the environment. Thus, her namesake sustainable lifestyle brand was born. The brand, a line of vegan accessories that are made from a trademarked performance material called Technik-Leather that she discovered during her automotive days, is the result of Vicki’s idea to create a direct-to-consumer accessories brand that utilized her technical background and—most importantly—had an ethical approach.
The material of her bags is most commonly used for car interiors and is 100-percent animal-free, but you would never know it by looking at them. Added bonus: The leather alternative is water-, stain-, and scratch-resistant, and are all made in the USA (another way to reduce the bags’ carbon footprint, as well as offering additional jobs to the market).
Below, we chat with the entrepreneur about how her idea came to be.
How did you get your start?
I began my career as an automotive designer and worked in Europe right out of college for Audi and Mercedes-Benz. I was always interested in fashion, but during my time in Europe I really fell in love with it, especially the aspirational and lifestyle elements that were very similar to the cars I was designing. My experience in automotive design allowed me to see fashion from a different perspective and come up with a unique point of view. The goal for me was to find a better way of creating accessories with a focus on sustainable style, merging an ethical approach with an elevated fashion aesthetic. I used my expertise to find advanced materials made in an environmentally conscious way and combined them with timeless shapes.
Why was sustainability such an important part of what you were trying to create?
Sustainability should be the focus of all great and relevant designs today. We have a big problem to solve and a limited time to solve this problem. As a designer, I feel a responsibility to use my talents to create positive change through thoughtful design solutions.
Sustainable style has come a long way. Walk me through your vision and where you wanted to see it go.
At the core of the von Holzhausen brand is our innovative material called Technik-Leather. It’s a 100-percent animal-free and sustainable material that has benefits far beyond traditional leather. It is a more premium material than actual leather because of all that goes into creating it from a science and styling perspective. On top of that, it doesn’t sacrifice the look and feel of actual leather. All these benefits as well as the fact that it is exponentially better for animals and the environment make it more premium than leather. Ultimately, I see the brand expanding into all fashion and lifestyle categories that traditional leather typically encompasses.
What do you think is the future of sustainable style?
I think sustainable style will eventually become the norm. Even today, we know that millennials are placing a premium on brands that are ethical. Eventually, the marketplace will demand that all brands and the products they produce are sustainable.
Why do you wish more people knew about how fashion impacts the environment and the amount of good we can actually do by shopping with a sustainable mind?
I think the customer is becoming more aware of the environmental impact that fashion has, but there is still so much we can do to educate the consumer. I think the point is to inspire as well as educate through great products that are aspirational as well as sustainable.