{Meet the Locals} Vaute Couture: Where Fashion + Kindness Collide

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

With a recent close encounter of the first kind with a bear while on vacation, I've had the over-sized, stubby-tailed critters on the mind as well as this little number {pictured above}. 

What better time to introduce the trailblazing designer + fertile indie fashion house behind this whimsical cotton dress with a foraging bear print: Vaute Couture is an eco-friendly + fair-trade fashion label founded by animal rights activist, vegan fashion designer and indefatigable entrepreneur Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart.

Leanne grew up in a suburb of Chicago, just around the corner from my childhood stomping grounds in Downers Grove, and she volunteered at the West Suburban Humane Society, the same animal rescue center where I spent each and every weekend volunteering between my freshman year and senior year. We attended the same high school, although I had graduated before Leanne first entered the halls of our hallowed alma mater {I wonder if she loved Mr. McFadden's class as much as I did? I digress}.

There are more parallels: at the age of 10 Leanne became a vegetarian; I made the decision to eschew meat, poultry + seafood at the age of 14. At 17, Leanne became a vegan; I made the choice to eliminate all animal products from my diet + my closet at the beginning of 2013 after spearheading this blog. 

How I managed to cross paths with a bear before crossing paths with Leanne + the Vaute Couture fashion label in all this time I have not a clue! 

Leanne founded VC in 2008 with the intent of designing and producing a warm coat that would prove a match for the bone-chilling Chicago winters; Leanne, a shrewd + creative problem-solver, wanted to provide coats free of animal materials + fashionable enough to attract the gaze of style-savvy consumers. 

"Not using animal fibers was an opportunity to look past what was just good enough to make something truly superior," she told CNN in a recent interview.*

Leanne's goal was {and remains today} to give shoppers fashion-forward options to traditional wool, leather + down choices, made by a company whose values aligned with their own.  

Not only did Leanne manage to accomplish her goal, VC has expanded its collection of outerwear to include day-wear, and this fall, VC was the first independent vegan fashion house to show at New York Fashion Week.

Check out their made-in-Brooklyn + Maine, fair-trade + eco-friendly wares for men and women right on over here.

If you're wondering, like I did before becoming vegan this year, why we need apparel choices that exclude animal by-products, here's a bit of reading that edified and enlightened, then cemented my decision to go vegan: 
{resources} the making of wool + leather + down + inside factory farming
{resources} more reading on the leather + wool industry: Inside the Wool Industry / Toxic Chemical Used for Leather Production Poison Tannery Workers / Don't Hide from the Truth
{resources} take a gander at this fun little article if you're contemplating taking the vegan plunge

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