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Supermodel Turned Vegan Clothing Designer Activist!

Supermodel Turned Vegan Clothing Designer Activist!

Calling all fabulous animal & earth loving artists & fashion designers!

Now through October 7th, Chicago conscientious fashion newbie, Vaute Couture, Inc. has launched an open source fashion experiment to birth the ultimate winter coat- vegan, eco, green, and warm enough for a Chicago winter… But they need YOU to design the winning looks! Just enter a fashion sketch & bio info to spec at their website,, click on How It Works, and be sure to read the “Challenge Details” before beginning your sketch!  This contest is for formally trained designers as well as more intuitive illustrators as well. 3 Winners get $1000 each and are showcased on the site! Even better, profits from one of the three lines, the Vaute Coat, go to Farm Sanctuary in NY and Cali, which rescues and advocates for abused & neglected animals.   For any questions or just to say hi, contact Vaute’s founder, Leanne, at Leanne(at)VauteCouture(dot)com. Hurry! Sketches need to be in by October 7th! Multiple entries will be accepted.

This logo is so cute, we almost peed our pants.
This logo is so cute, we almost peed our pants.

Who is this chick?


Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart is the beauty and brains behind Vaute Couture, Inc.   We wanted to know more about her the second we saw her logo (LOVE!).   Learn all about her (well, as much as you can learn in a few paragraphs) below;

Websites:, Email: [email protected]

GirlieGirl Army: Why Coats? You know what they say about beds…you spend 25-33% of your life sleeping,   so you better get a nice one? Well, in Chicago we wear our winter coats more than a THIRD of the year. It’s what I’m seen in more than anything and I’ve been trying to find a coat cute enough, warm enough, and good to the animals and Earth since my post awkward years began.   Traditionally, vegan and eco outerwear tend to be more sporty or casual, which is great for a hike, but can ruin a pretty outfit in a snap.   Just when I thought I was the only one with winter coat woes, I started hearing friends complaining too… some wanted to just be warm and fabulous, others wanted to be that and conscientious too.

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GGA: What’s your story? I’ve been animal free since fifth grade, when I chose my science fair topic to be factory farming, vivisection,and the fur industry instead of cool baking soda volcanoes. Back then I was too busy having art galleries in my bedroom and tracking down lost dogs and cats in the neighborhood to care much what I looked like or grow a sense of style. At the time I thought fashion was something about labels, popularity, and fitting in (all of which I knew nothing about!) Then, modeling some with Ford Models in Chicago, with contracts in Taipei and Hong Kong, made me take a second look at fashion.   I realized it was actually about things I really loved, like art and an outer expression of what’s on the inside. I’ve always loved starting ventures & seeing what we can do together, from an animal rights group in college that volunteered thrice weekly at Chicago Animal Care, protested Ringling Bros. and brought Howard Lyman in front of a packed student and faculty crowd, to organizing half my MBA full time class to do pro bono business consulting for New Orleans start-ups last winter.   Between schooling I fell into marketing for start-ups with very young amazing CEOs and realized that was what I wanted to do.

GGA: Tell us about this project: I am not a designer, I have absolutely no technical talent in any part of the clothing making process, seriously none.   But, I know there are tons of amazing talented artists out there that if I can bring us all together each doing our little thing for each part of the process, it could be cool to see what comes out, not to mention super fun!   I get giddy about communities where many voices collaborate, like Monday night orchestra. Everyone is in the moment together, playing their part, focusing on the same line of measures.   It is an experiment and a journey and there are inevitably wrong notes and missed beats, but in the end, the goal is the music. In essence, this is a fashion experiment, a crazy bootstrapped labor of love- experiment… something I can give it all to & meet people that inspire me.

GGA: How old are you, and where are you from? Just turned 26, born and raised in and near the city with the windiest winters.

GGA: What’s the future for your line? During material research sessions I’ve noticed some inspiring fabrics that, if I listen closely, whisper to me what they want to become. :) Those are next. Longer term, there are a few directions Vaute Couture could grow into, and while the core will always be about living fabulously in harmony with animals, I’m open to see where life takes us. We will certainly always have products dedicated to funding nonprofits who work for animals, as the Vaute Coat will be donating profits to   Farm Sanctuary this season. But a far off dream is to begin our own foundation for animals…. One day!