Turning down major work contracts because of your values? Yes.
Leading animal rights protests? Of course.
Living a minimalist life despite being at the heart and centre of the fashion world? Easy.
Understanding how the hell there's still so much animal cruelty in this day and age? Not so easy.
We talk about the challenges and joys of ethical living, the progress of the vegan movement and its ethical dilemmas, her stories from the fashion world, radical change, her favourite vegan handbags from Ethical Gallery and everything in between.
So, tell us about your modelling career.
I was scouted by Elite at the age of 16, at a mall in Marseille (France). I was studying at that time so I couldn't work much. Then, one day, my mum entered me in a national Marie Claire contest and I won. That was my first publication and the beginning of my modelling career. Since then I've worked in London for 1.5 year and I now work in Paris as a freelancer and in modelling agencies.
Can you tell us what was the best photoshoot / campaign you've done?
I've done many great shoots and met some amazing people along the way, but there is one shoot in particular that I absolutely loved: A photoshoot for Noah (vegan shoes label).
As a vegan myself I was absolutely honoured to represent a brand with such values. Noah is an Italian brand and the shoot took place at a beautiful location in Tuscany, where I spent three marvellous days. The whole team was incredibly lovely and the vibe on the set was amazing with great laughter and a lot of complicity.
Also, since most of the team was vegetarian or vegan, my lunch breaks were a lot easier than usual ;)
What does 'ethical' mean to you?
The word 'ethical' immediately links with 'morality' and 'peace'.
To me, being ethical is adopting a holistic attitude of respect towards animals, humans and nature.
We need to constantly remind ourselves that our everyday actions have an impact on others (and obviously the environment, and ourselves again), and it's our duty to minimise our negative 'footprint'.
What do you love the most about fashion?
I'm fascinated by the sociological side of fashion. Trying to understand what people want to express through the way they dress, and I also appreciate the aesthetics of it as I have a particular interest for beauty in general.
Ironically, on a personal level I'm not super excited about fashion and I generally don't understand the huge fuss about it.
My mom raised me avoiding the big, luxury brands and I was taught it was "snobbism". Today, as an adult, I'm perpetuating that belief and behaviour: I probably have only two or three big label items in my wardrobe as I boycott most of them.
When I became vegan my whole view of fashion changed. In a minimalist fashion, I'm buying less and less and if I buy, I do it consciously.
I try and love to support ethical brands and small companies. I like when you can have direct access to the owner of the brand (being via IG, Facebook or email).
And what do you hate about it?
What I hate about fashion is the superficiality and overconsumption.
We should always remember that the main purpose of clothes is essentially to hide us from nudity and protect us from the environment (temperatures, sunburn, etc). With this basic level of awareness it becomes difficult to understand and accept the whole business behind it. The fashion industry is SO inflated… Doing what I do, I see it everyday.
Two specific works reinforced my opinion:
The first one is a book called Zero Waste Home, by Bea Johnson. This book had a big impact on me and made me develop a great interest in minimalistic ways of living / consuming.
The second one was the The True Cost documentary by Andrew Morgan, which exposes the dark reality of fast fashion by showing its devastating impact on the environment, humans and animals.
I'm slowly but surely evolving towards an eco-conscious and minimalist lifestyle and I just LOVE it!
Aligning your mind, your actions and the rest of the world is incredibly fulfilling.
When did you become an animal rights activist?
I became vegetarian at the age of 19 and I immediately felt the need to speak about it. I started protesting here and there in my city and occasionally even traveled for specific protests or events.
At the age 22 I became vegan and it was only at this stage that I was truly embodying the status of "animal activist".
Have you seen any improvements in the world since then?
After 7 years being an animal defender, I can definitely see some improvements. But they are quite recent.
There is a growing wave of awareness connecting people everywhere in the world and Internet and Social Media have undeniably powered that. More and more people are becoming vegans, buying organic foods, etc and sharing their views.
But I'm extremely frustrated to see that, even though most people these days find fur abhorrent, each winter here more and more people are buying fur coats or coats with fur hoodies. Sadly, it's too easy to find raccoon fur in average shops.
Also, I often work with dog shelters and they told me that the more they campaign against animal abandonment, the more animals are abandoned. Each year, each summer it gets worse.
And it's the same for the meat industry: the number of vegans is growing but so is meat consumption.
I really have a hard time trying to understand this "increase/decrease" trend but it's probably linked to overpopulation - the number of births every day must be greater than the number of people turning vegan, for example.
Do you think the big brands will one day evolve and ditch animal cruelty?
Of course! And it is already happening!
McDonald's now offers vegetarian options, Fleury Michon (french brand of ham) now sells vegan meat, etc.
The question is: Should we or should we not buy vegan products from those companies?
Of course, it's good to support vegan efforts wherever they may come from, but I also totally understand people boycotting them. Such vegan efforts by these brands are quite hypocritical since they have already made so much money from animal cruelty.
I'm not saying I will never buy from them, but I will always prioritise small brands, with real, positive ethos.
In all honesty I think we have to radically change the market and leave no place for old, unethical companies.
Have you ever refused any work because of ethics? Or would you?
I have refused SO much work!
Strangely, the most unethical brands are always the ones with the most money... interesting point, right?
So yes, I refused some really good jobs because of their (lack of) ethics.
I often feel stuck with ethical choices and dilemmas. There is so much animal cruelty in the fashion, makeup, cosmetics and food industries and as a model you're expected to promote all that on a daily basis.
I refused to work for a barbecue brand, for a "leathers & skins" lookbook, for a dairy sorbet TV ad, a big contract with L'Oréal… etc.
Most women don’t associate their leather handbags with animal cruelty, believing that leather is a bi-product of the meat industry. What do you think about that?
I think most people are unaware. I was.
But I also think it's a common belief because it's comforting to think that when a cow is killed, we use her meat and skin so "obviously", "there is no waste".
People often say that "at least we are using all of it".
It's awful!! For example, there are so many cows raised and killed for different purposes: flesh, milk, leathers.
Is it hard to switch to a completely ethical life when it comes to fashion, accessories, cosmetics, makeup? What did you find the hardest to ditch / replace?
Of course at the beginning it can be challenging to change your whole way of life and consuming habits. But since it's a matter of duty, and not a choice, you do it and it quickly becomes pleasant.
I find it quite fulfilling to progress and evolve each day towards an "always-more-ethical" lifestyle.
There is a certain adaption time where you need to try various cruelty-free brands to find the perfect products for you, but when you find them, that's it.
These days you can also make your own cosmetics or even use natural raw ingredients: I use coconut oil as a make up remover, body cream, anti-wrinkle serum, hair treatment and so on.
I also use baking soda as a peeling / exfoliant and toothpaste, and I (carefully) use essential oils for many other beauty reasons too.
Talking about preferred products... What are your top 3 handbags from Ethical Gallery?
My favourite vegan handbags from your really cute website are:
- Cate Cork Clutch by Nina Bernice
- Morning Crossbody by Angela Roi
- Island Rattan by e.g. Indie