Insights From an Industry Insider–Meet Rêve En Vert’s Cora Hilts
“For me, fast fashion is like eating at a fast food restaurant – the greasy french fries may taste good for a moment, but shortly afterwards you just feel awful.”
What is your go-to destination for sustainable fashion? People ask us all the time, and it used to be pretty hard to answer as multi-brand stores that care about ethics as much as aesthetics have been rare and scattered all over the globe. But that was before discovering Rêve En Vert – a London-based retail site founded by Cora Hilt and Natasha Tucker back in 2013 – and as the market for sustainable fashion and beauty is bigger and better than ever, so is REV.
Ask us now, and the online boutique for honest luxury will no doubt be one of the first to come to mind. Favoring designers and brands that operate their businesses with respect for people and planet, they’re uncompromising in their selection and eager to share truth and knowledge. It’s called being transparent (look it up, mainstream brands), and it’s no doubt what separates the good from the bad.
Rêve En Vert co-founder and CEO Cora Hilts, now a Londoner, grew up in a small town on the coast of Maine in the States, and she credits the place for her environmental awareness. “I always am so thankful that I came from here as this deep connection to nature that I honed over the years of being on the water and spending time in the forests has stayed with me to this day, and is a huge part of the fuel that drives me to work so hard for a world where we respect the earth,” she tells us.
“I have now lived in cities since I was 18 but I still crave my time within nature, and my husband and I are in the midst of buying a house on the water near my parents so we can have somewhere to go and truly revive ourselves. My education took me to Paris for five years, then New York City for a bit to work in fashion, and finally here to London to get a Master’s Degree in Environmental Politics and Sustainability, which is where I have settled for now and run Rêve En Vert from.”
How and when did you become aware of and passionate about sustainability?
I studied politics with an emphasis on geography, super sexy, I know, so even back 10 or so years ago climate change was creeping into conversations about things like human displacement and resource scarcity, so I have known about this sort of looming threat for over a decade. It wasn’t until my master’s degree however that I really became a convert and decided that this is what I needed to do with my life: fight for change that is so needed in the way we live our lives. That was roughly six years ago now and the need sadly has only increased…
“The word sustainable is being thrown around so much that people are completely confused as to what it means and who is using it in an authentic way.”
How did you come up with the idea for Rêve En Vert, and how did you make it a reality?
I came up with the idea oddly whilst I sat in a class on renewable energy. My professor mentioned that after the oil and gas industry, fashion was the second most polluting industry on earth. I was completely shocked. I feel like now a lot of us are aware of this fact but six years ago, I just couldn’t believe that an industry that was meant to be so innovative and creative could be so far behind on environmental and humanitarian concerns. It was like: how could something so beautiful be so truly ugly? That’s when I had the idea for Rêve En Vert – a retail site that would curate only sustainable items that were made as aesthetically as they were ethically, which would allow for people to make significant change in the way they shop easily.
How would you describe “the world of sustainable fashion”, as you see and experience it, and how has it changed in the years since you launched Rêve En Vert?
Our tagline used to be “Sustainable Luxury” as we were one of the only ones talking about this sort of experience, but now I have changed it to “Honest Luxury” as I have really begun to think that the word sustainable is being thrown around so much that people are completely confused as to what it means and who is using it in an authentic way.
On one hand, I think it’s great that companies are starting to really wake up to the fact that they need to be conscious, but the reality is that so many of them are using that word way too early in their own journey to it or way too loosely when it comes to what they are actually doing.
To me, honesty means true sustainability because at Rêve En Vert, we have nothing to hide when it comes to our designers or what we do behind the scenes. If we say something, we mean it and the whole REV teams abides by what we preach as well. To me, the word sustainability just cannot be used without full transparency.
What, according to you, makes a good (sustainable) fashion or beauty brand?
It means having looked at things in a holistic way. It does not mean “I use organic cotton or some natural ingredients therefore I am sustainable”. It means having looked at the entire process of production (including water use, dyes, materials, labour, factory conditions, etc.) and then seeing it through to packaging (plastic free, biodegradable, etc.) and then: how is it getting to us? Are they using carbon neutral shipping and innovative ways of insulation?
We look at all of this and then make an executive decision on whether they are sustainable enough for Rêve En Vert. Not everyone is a 10 out of 10, but most everyone has already thought of where they are not quite up to par and are thinking about how to fix those aspects.
“I believe we as consumers need to learn what things actually cost to make as we have been so misled by fast fashion into thinking we can get things incredibly cheaply.”
Tell us about your decision to not offer sales at Rêve En Vert.
I think that in order to be a truly sustainable company, you just should not be putting items on sale because the price should reflect exactly what was put into the garment. If something was made with extremely high-quality materials, fair labour and environmental awareness, then all those aspects of production will need to go into the price, and I believe we as consumers need to learn what things actually cost to make as we have been so misled by fast fashion into thinking we can get things incredibly cheaply. This also makes people feel fashion is temporary or disposable, which is just not the case.
Sadly, this huge push for sales has been followed by luxury brands and retailers so now we all believe that we can expect to get things at up to 80% off. This promotes too much product and too much consumption for my taste, so getting rid of sales at Rêve En Vert has been a huge relief on my conscience of being in retail!
What do you think makes a conscious consumer, and why should we all be?
I think it simply means buying only what you really need and in the most considered way possible. And also to be engaged with who produces the things we buy. I think we are seeing conscious consumerism rise so amazingly quickly in food; it’s now cool to eat organic, go meet our local farmers and really think about what we put in our bodies. Imagine how well we would all be doing if we paid that sort of attention to what we used for beauty and how we consumed fashion. For me, fast fashion is like eating at a fast food restaurant – the greasy french fries may taste good for a moment, but shortly afterwards you just feel awful.
How do you think we’re going to consume fashion in 5 years time?
I am hopeful that things will have slowed down, but then I see that fast fashion is on the rise despite all the information we now have about the detriments of it so I am sometimes really unsure! I think in the end I am optimistic that we are going to get people to change. Also at the end of the day, in five years we will really be seeing the effects of climate change so I think it will become more and more obvious that business as usual will just no longer be acceptable as we have to try and prevent and further damage to this quite fragile earth we are all currently living on.
“In five years we will really be seeing the effects of climate change so I think it will become more and more obvious that business as usual will just no longer be acceptable.”
What are some of the most interesting brands on your radar right now, and why?
I am extremely into our newest line, Worn Store, out of Byron Bay in Australia. They do extremely small collections of sustainable fashion and furniture. Their ethos is “less is more” and the pieces are so beautiful that you can understand why you would maybe just need one amazing chair or one perfect linen pant to see you through. I love that.
Also we have this gorgeous new organic beauty range called La Eva that do only two scents, Blu and Rose, and have a small collection of body wash and cream, and shampoo and conditioner. Everything is in glass and refillable. I am obsessed with it and even my husband has made the switch so we have finally been able to go pretty much plastic free in our bathroom, which makes me extremely happy.
What’s on the horizon for Rêve En Vert?
We are working on expansion into the home and baby categories as we really want to make sure that Rêve En Vert is a destination for an entire way of life, not just fashion and beauty. As I have gotten a bit older and my life has personally evolved, I have realised that I will be more interested in a reclaimed wooden side table than a dress and I know there are customers who are in the same place, so I want to speak to them as well! Also I have a million friends with babies who are struggling to raise them ethically with just so much on the market that you are told you need now so we wanted to make a section for them that makes shopping for your child sustainably very easy.
We are also doing a lot more offline activation as I know the education part of Rêve En Vert is so huge; we need to let people know why they need to be shopping this way before we can expect them to change everything! So talks, pop ups and open studio nights will be happening in the near future in London to be followed by the same thing hopefully more throughout Europe and the States. I can’t wait!
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