Though Cora Hilts cut her teeth at brands like Stella McCartney and Christian Louboutin, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing during her early days in the fashion industry.
So Hilts enrolled in a environmental politics program at Kings College in London and channeled her excess energy into starting a personal blog where she chronicled the latest in sustainable fashion. As she documented the growing demand for environmentally friendly fashion, she realized there was an opportunity to turn her side project into a business opportunity. Thus Rêve En Vert was born.
The UK-based e-commerce site, which she and co-founder Natasha Tucker describe as “the Net-A-Porter of sustainable fashion,” features a curated selection of eco-conscious brands and designers that the team has determined meets a specific set of criteria, including use of organic and recycled materials, local sourcing and fair practices. Since the site’s launch in 2013, they’ve continually added new designers to their roster. Next up is Mara Hoffman, who they met at their launch party in New York City and has spent the subsequent years improving her sustainable practices.
However, sustainable clothing doesn’t often come cheap and requires changing consumer sentiments that have long been calcified in the age of fast fashion. Hilt shared her experience navigating the tumultuous sustainable fashion industry.
Why she decided to work in sustainable fashion:
People are aware of climate change and child labor, but on the day-to-day, it’s not something we want to delve into. I think fashion is a great way to have these conversations and allow people to vote with their wallets. It seemed to me like there was a massive opportunity to create a curated platform like this and to be able to make purchases that are meaningful.
On launching an e-commerce site:
I was the Net-a-Porter shopper, the Barneys and Saks Fifth Avenue shopper. I wanted to continue to shop that way and know that all of my purchases were ethically produced. It seemed so evident that this is how businesses should be done.
How she selects brands:
We have four tenets that we’ve come up with — organic, remade, local and fair. Natasha and I spent ages deciding. All of these designers adhere to two or more of these. We find that most of our designers adhere to all four. Unfortunately, sustainable fashion has this connotation that it’s all hippies and Birkenstocks, and there’s this idea that we all have to wear hemp if we’re sustainable or eco-conscious.
Where Rêve En Vert is most popular:
Our top markets are the U.K., the U.S. and Germany, which coincidentally, are also the three top growing luxury retail markets. We’ve made sales to over 25 countries already, including Singapore and Australia, We’re really wanting this to be an international platform.
On rationalizing the cost of sustainable fashion:
Sustainable fashion is more expensive. When you as a designer invest in high-quality materials that are meant to last a lifetime, and you pay your workers fairly and find factories that are local to you and not overseas, that’s reflected in the price point.
On if fast fashion brands like H&M can ever really be sustainable:
I read up on H&Ms sustainability policy, and their CSO said about 0.5 percent can be classified as sustainable. They make such a marketing tool of that 0.5 percent, but it’s a little odd that 99.5 percent of their production is still not sustainable. It’s great, but they have so far to go. I don’t envy the task. Inherently, they’re going to be fighting their own business model, and they shouldn’t be producing in Bangladesh and using child labor. But it’s up to consumers to ask those questions.
How to navigate sustainability in the current political climate:
When you watch Donald Trump say the most outrageous things, you can get really easily put down about your own ability to make an impact or go against the status quo. For me, the most realistic way to make positive change is to consume and purchase in the most responsible way, and support businesses that are out to make the world a better place, and not the other way around.
Photo courtesy of The Wild Magazine.