How I #MadeIt: Cora Hilts

There really isn't an excuse not to care about where your clothes come from or not to try to shop more responsibly, especially when there are sustainable fashion retailers as good as Rêve En Vert readily available. Founded in 2013 by friends Natasha Tucker and Cora Hilts, the site, often referred to as the Net-A-Porter for sustainable fashion, offers a beautiful curation of clothing that is as well designed as it is ethically crafted. Providing a platform that is a positive alternative to fast fashion, REV showcases and promotes independent designers who carefully consider their methods.
Earlier this year, Tucker and Hilts shared their wisdom on how we can all make our wardrobes more sustainable. Now, as part of our Fashion Conscience content (go on and check out the rest!), we visited Cora at the REV studio to discuss changing public perception on sustainability, setting up the business and what's in store for the future of REV.
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Photographed by Pete Navey.
How did you and Natasha meet and when was Rêve En Vert conceived?
I first had the idea for Rêve En Vert (REV) when I was getting my Master’s degree at King’s College. It was quite incidental really, in that a professor of mine was describing the current climate peril and mentioned that fashion was the second-largest contributor to carbon emissions. It was a bit of a eureka moment in that I had been looking for a way to bring together my personal passion for sustainable living with a way to reach masses, and fashion seemed the very obvious bridge at that moment.
Natasha and I had been friends for ages – we met when I was living in Paris about five years earlier – and she was the first person who really got the idea of a curated platform selling sustainable luxury fashion. Honestly, we became business partners over one bottle of wine too many over dinner at the Orange!
You studied environmental politics in London but did you always aspire to work in the fashion industry?
Photographed by Pete Navey.
Prior to my degree I worked briefly at Stella McCartney and Christian Louboutin, where I cut my fashion teeth to some extent. Ironically, after those two stints I really hadn’t wanted to get back into the fashion industry unless it could be paired with a bit more substance. REV has given me that opportunity. We always talk about ethics and aesthetics going hand in hand in the company, which means I get to have the best of both worlds.
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Which women have inspired you most, personally and professionally, and why?
My mother and my business partner inspire me the most on a daily basis. My mother for being our biggest advocate, an entrepreneur herself, and for teaching me balance in life. Natasha, I simply couldn’t have done this whole journey without! Oh, and Jane Goodall for her commitment to conservation and work with animals.
What advice would you give to one of our readers looking to make more responsible shopping choices and to make their wardrobe more ethical?
I would say, start by asking yourself every time you shop for something, 'Will I still love this in five years?' That was the biggest challenge for me, switching to investment pieces and buying less of more quality. Especially in a world where we are encouraged to consume so much of extremely little value.
Photographed by Pete Navey.
What have been the biggest challenges you've faced setting up your own business?
There is no set day, and no guarantees – ever. I am quite naturally a creature of habit and starting a company has made me have to operate as the reverse. You never know when a crisis might arise, an opportunity may present itself or your to-do list goes completely awry. Also there is no one to fall back on. If you don’t figure it out, no one will, and the company will suffer for it. Having a start-up is not for the faint of heart but it has made me stronger than I ever thought possible.
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What have been the biggest lessons you've learnt since starting REV?
People will let you down, people will pleasantly surprise you, and shockingly few people care about sustainability, though the environmental and humanitarian issues are present every day!
What does your average working day look like?
I begin with green tea in bed, checking emails (should probably refrain from that first thing but can’t help it), then meet Natasha for coffee next to the office and discuss strategy and visions. We try to get meetings done in the morning then get on a call with our CFO in New York as she is just waking up. Afternoons are more for admin, which can be anything from the new buy, to editorial strategy, to which new designers we are going to bring on. We wrap up around 5.30 and it’s either wine or yoga.
Photographed by Pete Navey.
Photographed by Pete Navey.
Since you launched Rêve En Vert a few years ago, have you seen a significant shift in how people perceive sustainable and ethical fashion?
Yes, definitely. When I first had the idea for REV five years ago, no one would mention sustainability in the same sentence as luxury fashion. But now we have Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney campaigning for it, Kering Group coming up with sustainable strategies for all of their designers and even fast fashion chains coming out with Conscious Collections. There is still much to be done to advance the conversation but these are huge strides for an industry that has really lagged behind in the realm of ethical progression.
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What is in store for the rest of 2017?
We have just brought on several new designers that I am so pleased about, including Mara Hoffman, Maiyet and Filippa K. We will continue to search for lines that are beautiful and ethical, while also expanding our marketing and PR efforts. Finally, as education is such a benchmark to our company I hope that Natasha and I will be able to have many more conversations about the importance of sustainability in fashion!
Further reading
... or find everything in 'Fashion Conscience' here.
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