As the designer behind the adorable vegan label Vaute Couture, Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart has become a figurehead for stylish vegans in New York, and especially in Williamsburg.
The former model’s line is not only the first all-vegan label to show at New York Fashion Week, it’s also fashioned with sustainable fabrics right in New York. You’ll love her stuff whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or conscious carnivore. I personally own one of her ultra-warm and girlish pea coats, as well as stalk her glamorous Instagram account. (There are lots of adorable animals involved.)
We’ve run into each other at several sustainable fashion events, and I finally asked her to participate in EcoCult’s How I’m Livin’ Series. Read on for tips on her favorite vegan treats and restaurants, where she does her vintage shopping, and the green stuff that still trips her up.
(P.S. If you like vegan stuff, I’m a fan of VeganCuts for non-toxic and vegan beauty products in a little gift box every month!)
What’s your favorite NYC restaurant?
FINE START WITH THE HARDEST QUESTION EVER. Hmm, well, I live two blocks from Champs and their breakfast-all-day, vegan-all-life situation always makes me very very happy. (Specifically their red velvet pancakes and buenos dias salad). Also, Peacefood downtown has a squash dinner with mashed potatoes that reminds me of Thanksgiving–it’s almost as good of a thing as how sweet the owners are. And their perfect salty sweet strawberry shortcake. Other favs: Hungawi couldn’t be prettier, Candle 79‘s mint coconut frappe is like an extra night’s sleep, Dun-Well Doughnuts are a DREAM, GOBO is just warm and wonderful for any special occasion, and then Soy & Sake‘s Village Roll, Buddha Bodai‘s vegan dim sum, M.O.B.‘s artichoke cashew mac n’ cheese, and the Organic Grill‘s vegan omelettes, all make me happy to be alive and not eating animals. Okay wait, did you want just one?
What’s your favorite bar?
I don’t really have one? I like ice cream, does that count? Okay, great. Then I choose root beer + cookies and cream + orange chocolate banana split at the place formerly known as Lula‘s, the salty sweet sundae at Chloe’s Soft Serve, and a sprinkled cone of DF Maven’s hazelnut chocolate when it’s summer at Clementine’s Bakery.
Editor’s note: I think she just turned a question about alcohol into a question about ice cream. So cute.
Describe your perfect Sunday.
Sleep in, wake up to the perfect playlist by my favorite person. Run. Split something at Champs. Lay in the park, read, kiss, nap. See a movie in a different park with a slew of my favorite people, eating Dun-Well’s Doughnuts and Dr. Cow’s cheese, playing a game we made up, and laughing until we cry.
What’s your favorite place to shop in the city?
Vintage is my favorite. I got the most beautiful vintage Japanese quilt at Stella Dallas in Williamsburg, it’s like a million flowers of different fabrics all held together by delicate wishes. Over time, some have broken, and so instead of throwing it away or trying to sew it up, I threw her over a couple nails over my bed and the way she falls is just perfect. It’s her gaping hole where her strings are broken between fabric flowers that you can see right through her.
Other favorites are Awoke Vintage and Antoinette’s and Rabbits, all in Williamsburg; they remind me of the thrift in Tokyo and Seoul–easily my favorite cities to shop in. I recently went to Seoul to show my collection as a fundraiser for C.A.R.E., an incredible group in Korea doing amazing work rescuing animals and raising awareness for them there. The thrift markets in Seoul are unreal … cutest, sweetest finds. And in Tokyo, they take vintage to a whole new level–their attention to detail and new proportions for apparel makes me dream and smile.
Your favorite NYC-made brand?
Brave Gentleman. Okay, fine, so their founder is my bestie Joshua Katcher, of the Discerning Brute, but still–it’s just the most beautiful high-end men’s line of totally ethical, eco-conscious, vegan suits, sweaters, and everything a handsome sweetheart of a guy needs. It’s hard to stand next to Joshua, even stopping by Smorgasburg on a sunny Saturday he always looks perfect, but then that’s why his line does too.
You have three days free to get the heck out of the city. Where do you go?
Upstate. Always. I will race to a cabin in the woods where no one can find me or need me and and look at the stars and pee in the woods and expand with each minute spent on nature’s clock and no other.
You can only see one musical artist perform this year. Who do you choose?
Dustin O’Halloran. Ideally outside, under the stars, on a blanket.
What’s your biggest, unsustainable bad habit?
How has living sustainably changed your life for the better?
Living sustainably means empowering myself to interact with the world how I choose, not how someone else or an industry chooses. That’s a new level of better.
Do you ever lecture your friends on their non-green choices?
Sometimes I speak at schools like Yale and at conferences about conscientious living, fabrics and entrepreneurship. But no, I just do me, you do you, and we can all learn from each other.
What do you find most challenging about living sustainably?
When it’s yellow, do you let it mellow?
I prefer the woods.