When Cora Hilts moved from Maine in America to Paris to study French and sustainability, she found herself working part-time in fashion houses to fund her course. “I really hated it and I hated fashion,” she says. “I was learning about climate change, global warming, species extinction and pollution one minute and the next I was working in places where none of this mattered and people were stressing about the colour of a shoe.”
Now, she owns multi-brand fashion and lifestyle website, Rêve En Vert. At first glance it looks like any other luxury e-tailer; beautifully curated, sleek and easy to shop, but what sets it apart is the message behind it.
Independent labels with sustainability at their core
Fuelled by a desire to see the fashion industry change, Hilts launched REV in 2014, stocking only independent labels with sustainability at their core. At the time it was a novel idea. The conversation around the industry’s detrimental impact on the environment was only just beginning and there was little appetite for eco-conscious clothing. It’s only now that she feels momentum is really picking up around the topic.
“Five years ago no-one was talking about it,” she says. “But it can’t be ignored anymore.”
Hilts has a very loyal group of people working alongside her, from the designers she stocks to her in-house team. “Every single person in the office can explain why a brand or item is supported by REV,” she says. “We know about everything from its origin to the dying process behind it, to the people who make the physical product.”
A completely transparent supply chain
Brand selection is of utmost importance and Hilts talks to each and every designer to ensure they comply with her ethos. Mother of Pearl’s new ‘No Frills’ collection is the perfect example. A culmination of founder Amy Powney’s dedication and efforts to make a change, it offers a completely transparent supply chain and promises to eliminate all unnecessary social and environmental damage while remaining aesthetically beautiful.
“To us, sustainable luxury is quality style made from a place of consciousness and we hold our designers to four tenants: organic, re-made, local and fair. At Rêve En Vert we don’t sacrifice style for ethics.” Rêve En Vert online.
Educating people to tackle climate change
Visuals, while not the primary focus, are something that Hilts is careful to consider. “We want to alleviate some of the stress and drama surrounding these very serious problems,” she says. “The idea is to educate people and to tackle climate change but to do so an inspirational way. It’s important to me that the style element is still there.”
There’s a focus on timelessness and the shopping pages comprise key wardrobe staples that will remain relevant for years to come. Price point, Hilts says, has always proven to be the stickler for shoppers; “It’s not that people aren’t spending money. I have friends who will spend £200 on the high street but expect to get four or five items. We have been trained by the media to believe we need so much ‘stuff’.”
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Now more of an all-round lifestyle destination than a fashion one, REV’s homewares offering adds variation and more accessible price points, proving that changes can be simple and easy. There should be something there for everyone,” she says. “We stock jumpers for £400 and toothbrushes for £4. Sustainability should be both aspirational and egalitarian. It’s about learning how to make positive changes in all areas of your life.”
When it comes to communication, REV has shifted its focus from being purely digital to including interactive customer events. The past year has seen the team host talks with industry pioneers and, most recently, launch a pop-up shop at luxury Côte d'Azur hotel, Les Roches Rouge. It’s a clever way of gaining insight into exactly what it is that the customer already knows, what they want to know and what inspires them.
“We talk to our customers as intellectuals. Our content, both online and offline, always has substance. It’s designed to educate. The events we’ve been hosting are a great way of getting people to engage for a full hour. You don’t get that with digital marketing – everything is so fast paced. These events are making a stronger impact than any social media messaging we have done.”
It’s a statement that’s easy to believe. Upon meeting Hilts, her passion is undeniable and everything, from her clothes to her keep-cup, is chosen with care and purpose. Instead of preaching, her focus is on providing education. “I want everything about REV to hone in on this message of change,” she says. “As human beings we have gotten ourselves into quite a mess. We should be scared. These global issues are very, very real.”
Words: Sarah Leigh Bannerman