Los Angeles-based handbag and material innovator Von Holzhausen is retrofitting a Tesla with a plant-based leather spin.
Von Holzhausen began as the brainchild of former car designer Vicki von Holzhausen, designing for names like Audi and Mercedes. In 2015, she launched handbags as proof of her fashionable pursuits, manufacturing her goods in New York with Italian leather. Now, she is pivoting back to her realm of expertise in this retrofitted line for Tesla launching June 21.
With an aim to make a material that could “rival” animal leather across industries, von Holzhausen said, “We are at a critical point in time. If we don’t take steps to solve the carbon emissions issue, we face irreparable damages to the planet and humanity.”
The company has developed a special bio-based material Banbū Leather. By material breakdown, Banbū has a 100 percent bamboo viscose backing and topcoat, which is 50 percent plant-based and 50 percent solvent free polyurethane with tested biodegradation ability.
“We realize that polyurethane or ‘vegan leather’ is also an environmental nightmare since plastic stays on earth for centuries after it is thrown away. That’s why we’ve designed our materials with high plant-based content while not sacrificing performance,” von Holzhausen said. “We’ve also designed them to biodegrade in a landfill. Our Banbū Leather has been third-party tested and biodegrades 100 percent in a landfill condition in less than 250 days without leaving any microplastics.
“This is a game changer within the vegan leather space.”
The material was tested according to common metrics defined by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
While the launch is limited in scope and does not constitute a formal partnership with Tesla (although the designer’s husband is a lead designer at the electric vehicle maker), the partnership is shoppable via Unplugged Performance, a firm which specializes in Tesla upgrades and retrofits. Customers can order the custom parts through Unplugged Performance’s website, selecting from a range of Banbū options. Featured colors include caramel, but customers can also hand-pick material colors, stitch detail preferences, stitch thread color options and perforations. The custom-designed interior starts at $29,995 for the Tesla S Plaid model, with Model 3, Model X and Model Y, also available.
Calling the project another step in a “leather paradigm shift,” von Holzhausen is setting her sights on fashion, furniture, auto and innovation.
“Our company mission is to make leather extinct. That’s why we’ve created this exciting project with Unplugged Performance to show our materials in motion on an exciting product. Leather use within the automotive industry is massive,” she said. “It’s a $30 billion-plus industry and growing. Moving that volume to more sustainable alternatives will create a meaningful step in the fight against climate change.”
The company is working on similar collaborations in the furniture, marine, hospitality, fashion and tech spaces and anticipates updates in the coming year.