An animal rights and environmental activist since she was a young girl, designer and entrepreneur Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart got the idea to start her own winter fashion business in 2008. As a resident of chilly Chicago, Hilgart was frustrated with the lack of warm, stylish, and animal-free outerwear in the market.
After a year of planning and development, which included eight months of fabric research, Hilgart launched a limited line of coats in 2009. Called Vaute Couture (a play on “haute couture”, but with a V for vegan), her company makes trendy winter garments without the use of any animal products such as wool, silk, and leather. Instead, her clothes are constructed with high tech and eco-friendly materials.
Since establishing Vaute Couture, Hilgart has been named one of Ecouterre’s 7 Best Emerging Green Designers of 2009, while Vaute Couture has received VegNews Magazine‘s Company of the Year honor. Celebrity fans of the brand include Alicia Silverstone, Emily Deschanel, and Ally Sheedy. Earlier this month, Vaute Couture opened its flagship store in Brooklyn, New York.