Cora Hilts: the future of fashion

Reve en Vert

Cora Hilts (MA Environmental Politics, 2012)is the co-founder of Rêve En Vert (REV), a premium retailer of sustainable style online. Originally from Maine, USA, life has taken her to university in Paris and jobs in New York City. After brief stints in the fashion industry at Stella McCartney and Christian Louboutin, she eventually moved to London to study for a Master's degree in Environmental Politics at King's.

Rêve En Vert was founded here in London and Cora continues to live in the city today, working towards a more sustainable future for fashion. 

Cora Hilts and Natasha Tucker

Cora Hilts (left) and co-founder of Rêve en Vert Natasha Tucker (right)

"When I was studying Environmental Politics in the Geography department at King’s, I never saw myself working in luxury fashion. That was until the day that a lecturer, quite by accident, mentioned that behind energy, fashion is the second most polluting industry on earth. It was a eureka moment for me, and it ended up changing the course of my career.

I had struggled to merge my passion for sustainability, and knowledge of environmental issues, with day-to-day existence in a cosmopolitan city like London. Topics such as climate change, deforestation and human rights don’t often come up in conversation, and many people don’t want to be confronted with these things in an obvious way.

These conversations can be overwhelming, but this was where fashion comes in. Fashion is something we all partake in, every day. It’s a fascinating industry because it can be a way to reach the masses, but on the flip side, can also be extremely exclusive. Couture clothing can sell for thousands of pounds, but shoppers can also walk into Primark and purchase a shirt for £5.

Reve en Vert

All of these factors lead to the founding of Rêve En Vert. The idea for REV, most simply, is to create an online retailer that sells sustainably and ethically made fashion that is also beautiful and luxurious. It combats the clichéd notions of ethical fashion by sourcing designers who hold ethics to the same priority as aesthetics. Through fashion, REV encourage consumers to change their shopping habits. We confront the grim realities of the fashion industry and share stories on why more sustainable choices should be made.

Problems in the fashion industry range from toxic dyes seeping into water ways, and the use of child labour, to the mistreatment of female workers and the carbon footprint of shipping clothing across the world. After an item is purchased in the UK, it’s likely worn a couple of times, before ending up as part of the 350,000 tonnes of clothing thrown into UK landfills every year.

At REV, we work towards combatting this short-term life of fabric. Our designers are committed to both recycling and upcycling materials. For instance one designer recycles beautiful discarded cashmere into new materials for coats. Two fitness designers also make yoga clothes from discarded plastics found in the ocean, which would otherwise be polluting our waters. The broken-down plastics are used to make elasticated fibres that are spun into high-end eco active wear. It’s incredible to see the innovation now coming out of the fashion industry. 

Reve en Vert office

We all have a responsibility towards the future, and the core belief of REV is to empower consumers to make a change with their wallets. If more people demand transparency in supply chains, retailers will have to conform. However the reality is that sustainable fashion costs more to produce.

People expect to buy five tee shirts for £50 rather than spend that amount on one, and rarely consider why a tee shirt costs so little. ‘Who made that shirt?’, ‘what were they paid?’, and ‘what is it made from?’ are questions that consumers should ask. It’s a culture change to move towards investing in pieces that are well-made and will last for years.

Research published by Unilever in January 2017 revealed that one-third of consumers around the world are now choosing brands based on their social and ethical impact. I have no doubts the future of fashion will follow this trend and we at REV want to be at the forefront of this shift.

Reve en Vert rack

These are just some of the thought processes that go on behind the scenes at Rêve En Vert every day. Our office is loud with debates, new marketing ideas and conversations with designers. No one day is the same but there is also never stagnation, which is one of the best things about having a start-up. The world must make change, and we are hoping to drive a little bit of it.

My advice for students or alumni considering starting a business is that it’s detrimental to not take ethics into account. Sustainability is being brought up in company manifestos more and more, and entrepreneurs should really be at the forefront of this movement. As people who think outside of the box, we can and should do things differently."

>>Visit the Rêve En Vert website