A year after her ethical rubber jewellery collection, supermodel slash actress slash activist Lily Cole has now turned her hand to sneakers. Today Lily has launched a collection of ethical AND stylish rainforest-inspired trainers (£55-65) with Veja, made using Amazonian wild rubber. We sat down with Lily to talk about her inspiration behind the collection, how she wears her sneaks and the future of ethical fashion. Lily is currently on stage starring as Helen of Troy in Simon Armitage's The Last Days of Troy (her theatre debut), so we also had to quiz her on her move into acting...
Grazia Daily: What was your inspiration behind your trainers?
Lily Cole: "I was keen to reference the Amazon and my experience of it in my designs. Last year I made a short film when we went to the Amazon. For the trainers I took still frame images from the film and they drew identical copies of the butterflies, the dragonflies, the leaves and the shrubbery I saw. I played with those images with the design and also reference the hummingbird tattoo I have on my back. The soles of the shoes are made of 40 to 50 per cent wild rubber from the Amazon. The company we're working with, Veja, already use wild rubber with their shoes so it made sense to work with a partner that was already on the ground there."
Grazia Daily: How would you wear the sneaks?
Lily Cole: "I've been living in them for last two months. Right now I'm wearing the grey pair with very floral pants – in a mad way both of the bold patterns work and don't work. I wear them with jeans mainly because I wear jeans a lot. I’m a trainers girl. I’m pretty tall, as you may know. I’m also pretty lazy. When it comes to walking, I like to have my feet as close to the earth as possible."
Grazia Daily: Why is ethical fashion so important to you?
Lily Cole: "I guess it’s an accident of the different things I’m interested in. I have been interested in how production change can have an impact for a long time. I am a big believer that you can solve problems through production itself – the consumer is very powerful. It’s appropriate for me to look at fashion because it’s an area that I have more knowledge than most and a right to have a voice. I wouldn’t be able to talk about washing maching supply chains with as much conviction– maybe one day!"
Lily wearing her jazzy sneaks [Getty]
Grazia Daily: They're timed to coincide with the World Cup, are you interested in football?
Lily Cole: "Nahh, not really. When I was a kid I was on the football team - I was terrible. I was the only girl I think on the school football team when I was very young and I was a huge Man U fan. I have never actually been to a live football game."
Grazia Daily: What exercise do you do?
Lily Cole: "I do a programme called Essentrics – a friend of mine and her mum made it. I discovered it three years ago when I was filming a movie in Montreal and now go in and out of phases of doing it. It has tai chi, pilates and dance and makes me look and feel at my best. Right now because I'm in a play I'm doing it every day or every other day."
Grazia Daily: Were you pleased with how your jewellery collection was received?
Lily Cole: "Nobody is going to suggest that one collection will solve the issue or have the impact we need to solve deforestation. But hopefully what it can do – which I think it did manage to – is start a dialogue about supply chains and consumer impact – specifically about wild rubber. Previously I had no idea rubber grew in the wild in the Amazon and has been a source of income to families in the Amazon for centuries. The ambition for the project is much bigger than any one collection."
Grazia Daily: Do you think the fashion industry is making progress in terms of sustainability?
Lily Cole: "I think so. Only based on intuition. When I started this dialogue six years ago it felt like a conversation not many people having. It seems that now there are more people talking about sustainable fashion, designers working in that medium and schools teaching it. It is still very very early days but there is more interest in production."
Grazia Daily: You're playing Helen of Troy at the moment, how did you prepare for the role?
Lily Cole: "I did a fair amount of research but actually if you start to research Helen of Troy you find there are a million different ways she can be interpreted. She is what everyone wants to see; what men want to see. So there are a million different images of her - not just physical, but who she is. I began researching quite a lot, working closely with the director and actors. I stopped researching for a period of time and focused solely on the version of her that lies in the script rather than any other text. It is still a process - I'll be working on it till the day I finish and maybe afterwards."
Grazia Daily: How do you find learning lines?
Lily Cole: "That's the easiest bit! It's just time and practise. How you say your lines and what they mean, that's the work. Maybe on my first film that was more intimidating - the idea of turning up and not remembering a line!"
Grazia Daily: A lot of models do go into acting, do you think it's a good way to start an acting career?
Lily Cole: "I always wanted to act from long before I was a model. I have no idea if I would have managed to break into acting if I wasn't a model. I actually did my first short films when I was six. I would guess it has helped me - but I'm not ignorent to the fact that there is judgement in people's minds which makes it an obstacle too. When I did my first film I was seventeen - maybe the reason it's worked for me is it wasn't an after thought. It was something that I made a conscious choice to move into it."
Grazia Daily: Do you now want to focus solely on acting?
Lily Cole: "I will always be interested in lots of things - Project Impossible I was doing full time before the play. I don't think I'll drop everything to focus on acting. I'm going to continue to do the other things I care about. For the last eight years I've had one film or two films out a year. It tends to work out as three months a year I focus on acting."
Lily Cole’s Veja footwear collection for Sky Rainforest Rescue is on sale from 2nd June 2014. For more information, please visit www.skyrainforest.com.