How Model Edie Campbell Approaches Sustainable Fashion

Photography courtesy of COS

Campbell, who stars in COS’s new sun-soaked Spring/Summer 2021 campaign, says it’s all about “treading lightly, and leaving a minimal trace.”

COS, the brand beloved for its Scandinavian minimalism, has launched its Spring/Summer 2021 campaign and its airy linen sets, crisp cotton separates and easy one-and-done dresses will make you wistful for those first patio days in April (or perhaps March? We can dream). In celebration of the new collection, COS has unveiled its SS21 campaign, centred “around the brand’s vision for a better future, with an optimism for the planet, its people and the next generation,” according to a press release from the label that has committed to becoming climate positive, with 100 percent sustainably sourced or recycled materials. (They’re tracking positively towards that goal, with 86 percent sustainably sourced materials so far in 2021.)

The campaign, shot by Karim Sadli and styled by Aleksandra Woroniecka, features two top models who also use their voices for social change and share a commitment to a more ethical fashion industry. British style icon Edie Campbell, an advocate for the fair treatment of models, stars alongside American filmmaker and writer, Adesuwa Aighewi, who has campaigned for representation within the industry. For her part, Campbell famously voiced her concern about the treatment of models in a 2017 open letter published in WWD, writing: “We have a problem: We operate within a culture that is too accepting of abuse, in all of its manifestations. This can be the ritual humiliation of models, belittling of assistants, power plays and screaming fits. We have come to see this as simply a part of the job.”

Here, FASHION shares exclusive quotes from Edie Campbell where the model-slash-activist talks about sustainability, maturing within the fashion industry and her love of horses. (Do we sense a new pandemic hobby in our future?)


On growing up in the fashion industry

I started modelling when I was 15, on and off, and then properly when I was 20, 21. I was an extremely awkward teenager; I would rather have not had a body at all. Then, to end up in this career which is so physical! As a model, you’re expected to take up space — you get on set, and you perform, and as I learned more about it that made me very confident in my skin. Growing up in the industry gave me an amazing confidence. I’m really grateful to have that, now.

On sustainability

Sustainability, for me, is about stewardship. We’re all looking after the world for the people who will come after us. How to live a life that does not have a negative impact? It’s difficult, because it’s so complex. It’s not possible to simply create a set of rules to live by that will remedy the climate crisis. Instead, I think it’s about trying to be mindful. Treading lightly, and leaving a minimal trace.

For me, reading and learning and trying to understand the magnitude of the problem has been very motivating. The people who are least responsible for the crisis we face are the ones who will bear the heaviest burden, and that is clearly unethical. Reading — a lot — opened my eyes. It’s not about being puritanical, or making meaningless gestures. Instead, it’s about doing better tomorrow than you did today.

I’m in the business of selling clothes to people, but I would hope that the fashion industry would slow down a little and bear more responsibility, focus more on quality over quantity.


On horseback riding

My mum signed me up for ballet lessons when I was five years old, and I had absolutely no rhythm, I bounced up and down like an elephant. So she asked if I wanted to have a riding lesson, instead, and I said yes. I was just obsessed — I have been ever since. Four-legged creatures are my great love. You can’t think of anything else when you’re on a horse. It’s soul food, really.

On her horses

I have four horses. One, Dolly, is retired, and the other three are Ed, Bruno and Tinker — shiny, posh, big-muscled beasties. My favourite thing about riding is learning what makes them tick. I compete, so I train horses to do what I want them to, and in order to do that successfully you have to get inside their head, see the world through their eyes. It’s incredibly rewarding, to create a very close partnership with this big, hairy beast. They trust you, and that’s very special. Riding has made me more in tune with the natural world, too; You gain a respect and an awe for nature and its ways.


On personal style

My style is quite androgynous. I like good clothes, but I’m not particularly interested in trends. I’m very interested in people who are extremely well dressed, whatever that is for them. When I’m riding, I dress like a complete slob. Especially in winter, when it’s many layers of thermals, and big, smelly coats with horse slobber on. But in competition, I do quite enjoy going for it, shining my boots. There’s a culture, in riding, of wearing things that will last. It’s not about the shiny and new, it’s about the quality of make.

Check out COS’s Spring/Summer 2021 collection here.

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