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By Eva Bloomfield, Vegan Editor

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 1.58.51 PMVaute Couture is a tour de force of a fashion line, striking a meticulous balance between a playful aesthetic, methodical design and a throughline of compassion. The creator of the vegan label, Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart, is every bit as daring and delightful as the couture. This business-savvy activist has given the world a brand that is at once design-centric, style-forward and thoroughly ethical.

 A model-turned-business owner, Leanne tops the girl-crush charts. But, looking back, she thinks of herself as having been the odd man out. With a mother from Taipei and a father who grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, Leanne was no stranger to the meat-heavy meal. But her penchant for animal-activism was quickly ignited at the early age of six, when she noticed a girl in her suburban Chicago neighborhood sporting a jacket made of rabbit fur. Something clicked, and there was no looking back. She spent the remainder of grade school mobilizing her friends to raise money for the local animal shelter and toting around a trapper keeper plastered in photos of rescued animals. She also caught the marketing bug, selling the slogan “Being cruel isn’t cool” to a t-shirt company. The animal-activist-entrepreneur seed had been planted.

 Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 2.03.02 PMLeanne was in her final quarter of college, earning a degree to work as a school principal, when lightening struck. Education, she realized, wasn’t her path. Following rules was never her thing–and certainly not when dress codes were involved. She boldly made the decision to quit and, after spending a few years modeling, traveling and working in marketing for a babysitter sourcing site, she found her calling in Vaute.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 2.00.10 PMVaute is the incarnation of purpose meets practicality, all while being hopelessly fetching. By way of extensive research and cunning design, the line’s innovative high-tech textiles and sustainable materials are all 100% animal-free, then cut and sewn with fair labor. In its aesthetic, it’s all about flattering meets functionality. Between dresses with feminine hourglass silhouettes, outerwear that is fantastically warm and brazenly chic, and structured men’s button-downs (they also suit women–females, take note), the collection is whimsical, coquettish and deliciously comfortable.Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 1.59.55 PM

Beyond the drapey fabrics and delightful patterns, Vaute exists to embolden. It extends the message that what we wear is our choice and that choice has an undeniable impact on the world. The clothing we choose is a reflection of our personalities, our vitality and the change we want to see. By investing in pieces that are cruelty-free, sustainable and every bit as desirable as anything else on the market, consumers own their role as ambassadors of change. Vaute attests that kind isn’t a compromise. It’s an empowering choice.Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 2.00.38 PM