By Nicole Rivard
Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, creator of Vaute Couture, a high fashion vegan clothing label, is hard pressed to pick just one highlight from 2013.
First, she made history by becoming the first independent fashion house with animal-free built into its brand to show a vegan line during New York Fashion Week. As a result, she inspired CNN to do a story about how Vaute Couture is poised to change the fashion industry instead of focusing its piece on fur making a comeback during fashion week. And she impressed Business Insider enough that it named Vaute Couture one of the most innovative businesses in New York City.
The CNN story garnered 7,000 shares, which is unheard of for a fashion story, Hilgart says.
“I thought I was just going to give the reporter one quote,” Hilgart told Friends of Animals recently from her flagship store in Brooklyn. “But I didn’t just say here’s my quote about why I don’t use fur. I opened up my heart to talk to the reporter…and told her why I’ve dedicated my life to this. It’s not just about fur. It’s about animals being treated like cogs in a machine and industries. They aren’t meant to be in these industries. We industrialized everything, and we forgot to say we should not be including sentient beings in these machines because they aren’t part of machines.”
Having a big media outlet like CNN give her a chance to say that vegan fashion wasn’t simply an alternative, but instead the future of fashion, meant a lot to her. However, Business Insider’s recognition meant even more.
“They didn’t just say Vaute Couture was one of the most innovative ethical businesses, or vegan businesses— it was of any business in New York City,” Hilgart said. “Business Insider recognized that this is relevant, and it’s relevant to everyone, because I am innovating in a way that people don’t need to wear animals again… in a way that’s actually better.
“I have been an animal rights advocate since I was a kid. And it made me an outsider. It made me ignored. People didn’t want to talk to me. They just didn’t understand why I cared so much. For Business Insider to say not only that it was important and innovative but relevant to everyone…for the little girl who went to being super popular to being completely shunned for caring about animals, that was a really big deal to me.”
In 2008 Hilgart, 31, launched her first Vaute Couture collection of coats made of recyclable and recycled fibers, and produced locally, that were warmer than wool, windproof, snow resistant, rain resistant and heat retaining. Now the collection includes t-shirts, sweatshirts and dresses.
The name Vaute Couture is a nod to the French phrase for high fashion with a V for vegan, plus Vaute sounds like vote, Hilgart, says, “which is what we do when we buy, we vote for everything behind it.”
Six years later, innovation, not fashion, continues to drive her designs. However it’s hard to ignore the style that Hilgart achieves without even trying.
Currently she is busy innovating and inventing her 2014 fall/winter collection, which will also include sweaters and evening gowns. In the meantime, Vaute Couture is having an online flash sale for two weeks of favorite styles from this season, including high tech vegan winter dress coats and dresses.
Each day (the sale started Feb. 4) of the first week there will be 50 percent off a particular style, for 24 hours, from 1 p.m. EST that day till 1 p.m. EST the next day. Just keep an eye on Friends of Animals’ and Vaute’s Facebook and Instagram if you want to know what's launching when each day. Then the second week of the sale items will be 35 percent off and 10 percent of sales will go to groups that protect animals, including Friends of Animals on Feb. 12. Visitors to the Vaute Couture website, www.vautecouture.com , will also be able to donate $25 to FoA to become a member and receive Action Line magazine and then be entered into a raffle for one of Vaute Couture’s dresses.
Learn more about Hilgart and Vaute Couture in the summer 2014 edition of Action Line.