VAUTE Founder Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart on How She Mends After Heartbreak



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Leanne is a pioneer in the fashion world. She founded VAUTE Couture, the fashion house for animal lovers and the first ever all-vegan label to show at New York Fashion Week. When she's not juggling the many hats of an entrepreneur, she loves spending time with her pup in Brooklyn. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @leannemaily and @vaute_nyc

HER FIRST HEARTBREAK
“We both had both grown so much and in different directions, and I was heartbroken. We were good to each other. But it wasn't right. We didn't fit anymore. He had not broken my heart; life did. But really, I knew it was for the best. Of course the first time I saw him after the breakup I just cried the entire time - it was completely involuntary. I cried at dinner, I cried at the bookstore, I cried in the car.”

ADVICE SHE WOULD GIVE TO HER YOUNGER SELF
“I knew then that we weren't meant to continue into the next stage of life together and that was okay - we could honor the time we did have together nonetheless. But I didn't know then just how magical life could be alone. I'd always heard the advice to love yourself first - and duh- of course, love yourself first sounds so obvious. I thought I loved myself as much as the next girl. But I didn't really know what that meant until this year - how to say nice things to yourself, ask yourself what you need, listen to your body, and do what you need to do for you first. Before I was always rushing myself, pushing myself, putting me last, and all under the guise that I thought I was invincible, so strong that I needed nothing. This self-bullying instead created the opposite effect - it made me easy to break. When I actively love myself, like do things for myself that I would do for someone I love, then I show up to the world needing nothing. I show up to dating needing nothing. And everything therefore is a gift.”

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HER MOST RECENT HEARTBREAK
“He is a wonderful person. We both gave more than we could. We fundamentally see the world in very different ways and want different things of life, but I’m grateful to him. Each breakup I learn so much about myself, and about what fits me. I know better now who I want to be in a relationship, and who might fit me better.”

HOW SHE MENDS
“Journaling. Running. Reading - Thích Nhất Hạnh, Pema Chödrön, Eckhart Tolle. Tea with my friends. Music. Nearly constant music. Around the time of my last breakup I started listening with my headphones everywhere. It's a great way to reset my brain and drown out the noise that's telling me what to worry about or over-think. I also love how everything feels like a movie when you have your own soundtrack. Smiling at strangers, walking at the pace of the music (instead of at the pace of my lateness.) It feels like a stride and feels like I've already arrived with each step like *this* is an important part of my day - instead of it just being me frustrated that I haven’t gotten somewhere already."

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HER BREAKUP VICE
“A heart to heart with that person. In the midst of healing and feeling so so strong, that nearly ruined me because I didn’t understand what it was going into it. Sometimes you have to realize that just because someone can express themselves and say all the things you needed to hear before the breakup doesn't mean they are interested in putting those feelings into action or growth. And that's okay. But know that first: an apology is sometimes just an apology, not a plan.”

BEAUTY IN THE FREE FALL
“I hit a rock bottom in most ways in my life all at once, and as I was falling there I felt paralyzed and terrified. And then when we broke up the falling down became a free fall. I felt weightless, a little invincible, with nothing to lose and no one to see each day unless I wanted to. There’s this quote I found around then: ‘The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is there’s no ground.’ C.T. Rinpoche. At some point during the falling, when you surrender and let it all go, it actually becomes fun and you feel free knowing you have yourself, you are alive, and you have this day. There is no rock bottom really because those are three really beautiful things to have. I no longer had to show my ugliest parts to someone who I hoped would still love me. I could instead just ask myself what I needed, and then go into the world knowing I could love me all of me. And from there I could try anything, and face my fears only to find out they weren’t scary in the first place.”

HER DAILY RITUALS
“I created a lot of daily rituals for centering myself during this breakup/breakdown period in my life. Morning journaling, evening journaling - writing what I wanted every morning and what I was thankful for. Finding and obliterating the ‘truths’ I had been holding on to about love or life that have triggered or hurt me or brought out the worst in me. Also, figuring out what I realize now might be a better fit for me. I will also say that typically a breakup is partnered with exceptional growth for my business. Hooray.”

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CAN EXES BE FRIENDS?
“I think exes can be friend-ly... and generally it's a good idea to get or at least feel on good terms to heal. Can they be friends? Only if one is not really giving someone new a chance, or if you never really developed feelings for them in the first place. But if it was a real partnership, no - out of respect for the new potential partner. It's hard to compete with months or years of intimacy. It's hard to see those inside jokes and that closeness your partner still has with someone they loved, but maybe that's just me. I personally can and like to catch up every once in a while with an ex, but bottom line is I want them to be happy, and that means me getting out of the way and letting go of wanting them in my life so that I can grow something with someone else, and they can too. It's important to leave an empty space in your heart and life, trusting it's making room for something better.”

FORGIVENESS
“Leading up to the breakup we see the worst and we feel our worst. It's important to remember that the other person was doing their best, and you were too. When someone close to me told me this, I went through and wrote a list forgiving my ex, and forgiving myself. It didn’t need to be done with my ex. That would have been impossible at that point. But forgiving us inside me - that I could do by myself, and it helped so much in moving on and letting go.”

MUSIC THAT MENDS
“I really love Ingrid Michaelson's Wonderful Unknown, although I realize now looking at the lyrics that it's probably not about this kind of heartbreak at all...but the refrain ‘in the best way, you'll be the death of me’ really felt like how a breakup frees you to say goodbye to parts of your past self as you grow into the next you, learning what didn’t work and letting go of that version of you... and as I mentioned on Mend's Instagram (@letsmend), for a while there I just dedicated all happy love songs to myself (Ingrid’s Parachute is a good one for this).”

A RISK WORTH TAKING
“I think life is meant to be shared. It's easy to feel alone sometimes. To get to dedicate myself to understanding one person...to do my best to make them feel loved, supported, and seen always...to be the person that over decades gets to slowly know the ins and outs of how they work, the intricacies of their ever-changing inner world...to get to share the chapters of life, the adventure and lessons, the laughs and tears...to fully see someone? That is a gift I would treasure with gratitude and not take lightly. I have wonderful best friends and amazing parents, but a partner that gets me like no one else? Someone who helps me understand myself, and the world? Someone I can learn with and grow with through it all? I’ve seen others share this and it’s something I look forward to. It’s something I would risk heartbreak after heartbreak for if it meant there was this waiting for me when I was ready.”