By Daisy Wallis
Conscious consumerism is a concept that has become more popular in 2020. As the majority of us have been forced to slow down and evaluate our pre-COVID lifestyles, we wanted to sit down with one of our favourite sustainable entrepreneurs, Cora Hilts.
Noemi: We are big fans of Rêve En Vert, especially the way the brand navigates sustainability and aesthetics through an incredible list of sustainable and independent brands. Could you tell us more about you and your journey with Rêve En Vert, for those who might not know you?
Cora: The beginning of Rêve En Vert was an unexpected journey for me. I was studying Politics and Sustainable Development. My professor mentioned that fashion was one of the most polluting industries and for me, it was this a-ha moment. I was learning all about global warming and deforestation and none of my girlfriends would want to talk about it. In 2014, it just wasn’t a discussion point at all.
I started thinking about fashion as this medium to get people to care about sustainability in a way that wasn’t threatening.
“I started to try shopping sustainably for myself. As a young woman, I had just moved from Paris and I was living in central London. I definitely wanted to look good, I didn’t want to start wearing burlap sacks and espadrilles. I started finding these amazing brands and I really loved that they were small, I loved that they were independent, I loved that I would walk down the street and not see 5 other girls in the same dress as me.”
I had this idea that what if all of these brands could be curated in one place. A place where sustainable shoppers could find the brands easily. I wanted for us to do all of the vetting of the brands ourselves, as I know sustainability can be difficult and hard to determine the rights and wrongs. I wanted to build a platform of trust and conscious consumption.
Noemi: How do you navigate the concept of being “on-trend” at Rêve En Vert?
Cora: It’s so funny because I think that things that are truly attractive to the eye aren’t ever things that are on-trend. That’s not to say newness is bad, I just think we need to move away from being on-trend to do you love it? Will it suit you forever?
Noemi: One of the main reasons why we love Rêve En Vert is because you showcase many local and independent brands. Was this an intentional choice for you?
When brands become big, with shareholders and a certain amount of profits expected each year, corners are cut. In comparison, the designers I work with make it easy for me because I know they are in it for the right reasons. I know they aren’t expecting exponential growth and that they won’t cut corners to appease people at the top who have no idea about what is going on at the bottom.
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Noemi: How do you think this shift has affected the sustainable fashion industry, from a brand’s and consumer’s perspective?
Cora: For brands, it’s been hard. As the economy has suffered, people are buying and shopping less. But, I recently read an article from the Business of Fashion which spoke about a huge increase in conscious consumerism. I think that this is down to us all having more time.
I think this time has really slowed everyone down. People finally have time to think about what they are buying and where they are buying it from.
Noemi: Do you have any advice on how to support local and independent brands and businesses?
Cora: First and foremost, find your local farmers market. Get to know the people that grow your food and cut out the middleman by buying their produce directly. If you can’t find a farmers market, keep your shopping as local as possible. In Dalston, we have the most amazing independent coffee shops which use sustainable coffee beans, organic milk and so many great options.
When you are at home, make your own food, avoid Deliveroo and Uber Eats. I see it all the time in my communal trash area, so many plastic bags and little plastic dipping sauce pots. It’s not good for you, it’s not good for the planet, and it’s not good for the economy.
It’s important that if you are fortunate enough to have power with your spending, you make an impact with your everyday choices. From where you buy your ingredients for meals down to where you buy your coffee.
“[…] I think that in 2020, more than ever, we all have to take a step back and look at our overall lifestyles and just think are we living in accordance to our values?”
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Noemi: What are your thoughts on bigger brands and designers finally opting for greater sustainability?
Cora: Obviously, I want to applaud anyone that is moving towards sustainability. It is the only direction to go in and I am thrilled to see big companies are finally joining the conversation.
What I will say to the consumer is to not take everything they say at face value. On the REV on Air podcast, I spoke with journalist Dana Thomas, who recently released her book Fashionopolis. She was telling me that she has been to these factories in Bangladesh and went to Rana Plaza after the factory collapse in 2013. She told me that these scenes will stay with her for the rest of her life because it was so bad and yet it didn’t affect Primark sales.
She also told me about looking at the amount of money a company, who I won’t mention by name, had spent on producing a conscious collection compared to the marketing budget. Which do you think got more budget?
Noemi: Marketing for sure.
Noemi: And do you have any advice on spotting greenwashing?
Cora: I think it is hard. I would say spend time on a brand’s website and if all the information that you want isn’t there, something is not right. If they were doing everything correctly, they would want to scream about it.
If you are wanting to know more, drop them a line. We get emails all the time at Rev and any one of our girls would be able to answer questions about any of our lines. That to me is an imperative when running a business in 2020, where there is accessibility and transparency when talking about sustainability.
It’s the same when you go into a store. Can the sales managers and clerks talk to you about their conscious collection? If not, they are not educating their employees about sustainability and are not doing a good job.
Cora: For organic cotton, GOTS certified organic cotton is always great. B Corp certification is one of my new favourites because it means the brands are really going above and beyond.
Another great one is 1% for the Planet. It means that the brand gives away 1% of profits to environmental organisations and I think this should be a requirement for a lot of these big companies. ECOCERT and OEKO-TEX are also great ones.
I think more than trying to know which ones to look out for, look out for absences of them.
“If there is no certification the company hasn’t even tried to get a certification and I think that is more telling than trying to look for these certifications and to make sense of them[…]”
Noemi: Are there any new and upcoming brands that you are excited to see develop?
Noemi: I am wearing my Pangaia!
Cora: They are amazing and I love seeing them everywhere! All Birds are also doing some incredible things. And Patagonia. It isn’t up and upcoming, but I highly suggest that readers look at what they are doing. They are not perfect but what I love about them is that they are using their voice to do so much more than just sell clothes.
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Noemi: What would your advice be for our readers on finding the perfect forever pieces for your wardrobe?
Cora: “Okay, literally so many people ask me this question and I come up with the most absurd, frivolous answer but I am gonna just say it because it actually is so effective when you are buying a piece think about it like this:
“Would I feel great running into my ex-boyfriend or girlfriend in this?”
Noemi: I love that!
Cora: It’s so effective and it will cut away 80% of the things you want to buy!
Noemi: And in terms of fabric, do you have any favourites right now?
Cora: I love linen and Tencel. I have also been having a real moment with cupro, fabrics that are natural and fully biodegradable. I have cut out any sort of nylons, acrylics or polyesters and I don’t miss them. I think it is important to encourage people to get natural fibres wherever possible.
Noemi: What are your favourite resources for keeping up to date with sustainable news and innovations?
In terms of podcasts, I love How to Save a Planet by Doctor Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. She is a marine biologist and the podcast really dives deep into the fact that we cannot address sustainability without diversity.
Noemi: What are your main sources of inspiration?
Cora: I look to people like Jane Goodall and David Attenborough. I think we need to step up as this is our planet and I think Greta Thunberg is doing a great job of this.
Noemi: And what is your favourite self-care ritual right now?
Cora: Yes! I have started turning my phone off from 9 pm till 9 am. My husband and I started after we watched The Social Dilemma. By not looking at social media, not looking at news past 9 pm and reading physical books that inspire me, it has really made a difference to my sleep and stress levels.
Noemi: That’s amazing!
Cora: Babe it’s way better than any cream or face mask. It has been so great!
Noemi: What are your top three sustainable brands right now?
Cora: We are going to be doing more home stuff, including, advice on how to curate your own sustainable home which is exciting. I have also just hired a Food and Garden editor who is going to be providing content from recipes to advice on gardening. Food is really important to me and I am excited to bring more of that to Rev.
Season 3 of the podcast is also coming out which I am really excited about. We did have a lot of plans, both online and physically, which have been put on pause for the time being, so stay tuned!
This interview has been shortened and edited by Daisy Wallis.