If you're a sustainable fashionista, there's a good chance you've heard of the advocacy group 'Model Activist'. We had the pleasure of interviewing Áine Rose Campbell who co-founded the group in 2017 in New York City. Áine opens up on her journey into modeling, her passion for the environment/sustainable fashion, and how 250+ models can to help build a more just sustainable industry and world.
Scroll down for the full feature and snaps of Áine in the Mila Top and Karina Skirt on her recent trip to Curacao.
Áine, tell us a little bit about yourself!
Firstly, Áine, is an Irish name, pronounced Anya! :) I’m part Chinese, Irish, Scottish and English. I’m a model, sustainable fashion advocate and the co-founder of the Model Activist Community, aka, the Model Mafia, a community of around 250 fashion models who work together for a more equitable, just and sustainable fashion industry and world.
How old were you when you started modelling!
I was 20 when I started modeling, but was I scouted when I was 15. My friends and I were at a day-long concert in London. I think Shakira and Enrique Iglesias were playing! A guy came over to us, introduced himself, and asked if he could take my photo. He told me he was with Storm, the same agency as Kate Moss, and thought I could be a model. It was a weird, but exciting experience. I decided to finish my education before pursuing modeling, but I kept getting approached by agencies. So, when Storm scouted me again just as I was turning 20, I decided to give it a go.
How did you start your sustainable fashion journey and why is it important to you?
In 2011, I traveled to LA to model the winning design for the Red Carpet Green Dress competition, which is all about wearing sustainably made clothes at the Oscars and other red carpet events. The competition was started by Suzy Amis-Cameron, with her husband, film director James Cameron. I was wearing a gorgeous organic, pink silk, handmade dress at their Oscars event, that was designed by British-Ugandan designer, Samata Angel.
Suzy was also wearing a sustainable design. It was a beautiful, deep purple gown that had quilt-like patches of color sewn onto the bodice and skirt. It was sheer glamour, but it felt like home. As she told me about the design (created by Jeff Garner), I was fascinated to learn that its materials had been grown on an organic farm in the US and how many of the common practices in the fashion industry had extremely negative effects on the planet and the people working to produce the clothing.
I started to think a lot more about what I could do and decided that, as much as I could, I would promote sustainable and ethical fashion, and collaborate with conscious brands to align my image with my beliefs as much as possible. This choice lead to a number of successful collaborations in the form of photo shoots, runway shows, panel talks and interviews, all to increase awareness for sustainable and ethical fashion, and the urgent need for the fashion industry to make big changes for the future of our planet.
How and when did you start Model Mafia? What inspired you to start it?
I co-founded the model mafia with fellow model, Cameron Russell, at the end of 2016. I’ve always been fascinated by community, identity, and belonging. Modeling can be an isolating and challenging job, and that forced me to delve deeper into my interests to help address that problem. So, in early 2015, I started a group called 'Beyond the Runway' which helped models explore their passions and professional development outside of modeling. One way of doing this was by inviting well-known models, who had successfully developed other projects, to come and talk to the community about how they did it. Cameron was the speaker in Spring 2016. She really enjoyed speaking with an engaged community of models and I loved being able to bring in an inspirational activist to share her ideas. Later, Cameron asked me if I would be interested in creating a community that was purely focused on social impact. The combination of her activism and my community building experience were the perfect ingredients for forming the foundations of the Model Mafia.
What is your favourite part about working with such an amazing community of models?
There is so much that I love about this community that it’s hard to pick one thing! It is full of brilliant, passionate people who are brimming with creative ideas, and we all not only learn so much from one another, but we inspire each other to keep going, to keep trying, to keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. I think that one of the most powerful things about this community is its solidarity and the way it allows us to take bigger risks. For example, during the height of the #MeToo movement, when Cameron asked the community to join her in sharing anonymous stories of sexual harassment on their social media platforms, there was a huge response and we reached millions of people. It was much more than one person could have done alone and provided protection that an individual sharing alone wouldn’t have had. Most importantly, it created industry-wide changes. Dressing rooms or adequate changing areas are much more likely to be found on jobs now and Condé Nast has even created a code of conduct for their photo shoots.
What has the response been to Model Activist?
It has been really positive! More and more models want to join or find a lot of inspiration in the work we do. We’ve also teamed up with environmental advocacy organizations like Eco-Age and Pure Earth to collaborate on social impact initiatives.
What inspires you to do the work that you do every day?
There is a momentum in our movement right now, and it gets me up and going every day. There are so many opportunities and projects we are working on right now and it’s very exciting. I want to make sure that the members and the projects get the nourishment they need to do the best they can, so that our model activists can grow, and so that we can continue to be a positive force.
What’s one thing in your opinion that anyone can do to influence climate change?
This is actually a tip that fellow model-activist, Dawn Gallagher, gave me and I think it would have immense power if everyone were to take this small action: Move your money to a bank that does not invest in fossil fuels! It’s a less obvious lifestyle change, but with critical mass, it is majorly disruptive.
When did you move to NYC and what is your favourite thing about the city?
I first went to NYC for modeling in 2008. I immediately fell in love with it. The thing that I love the most is its energy, and that is what has kept me here! It’s in the bright lights, the tall buildings, the year-round, bright, blue skies (it’s much sunnier than London!), the hot summer nights, the diversity and different cultures all around you. It feels like if there is anywhere you can get something done, it’s here.
What would be your top 3 places to visit for a newcomer to NYC?
My top 3 places are Hudson River themed; moving from the south of Manhattan to the north!
1.The Highline. I love this elevated walkway that weaves between buildings next to the Hudson. It’s a unique, urban garden.
2.Free Kayaking at the Manhattan Community Boathouse. You don’t get to get in the water much when you are in the city, but this midtown activity lets you roam free on the Hudson river. It is so much fun to do with friends and a great, unexpected place to bring visitors to as well.
3.The Cloisters Museum. This is a beautiful, secluded place at the top of Manhattan Island. In the Summer you can take a picnic there, listen to a concert in the museum’s sunlit courtyard, and stare out over the Hudson to the spectacular Englewood cliffs in New Jersey.
What are your top tips for shopping sustainably and with a purpose?
Sustainable fashion can come with a higher price tag and I appreciate that that makes it less accessible for some people. With this in mind, I always say, buy less and buy clothes that you really love! That way you’ll keep them longer and feel good about the extra you paid for them.
Make sure that the entire supply chain for the clothes you’re buying is sustainable and ethical, like TAMGA! If a website doesn’t tell you that they pay their workers fair and livable wages, write to the company to find out before you buy.
I also like to buy second-hand clothes from thrift stores or charity shops. If I see something that is from a high street store that’s second hand, I feel ok about buying it. Also, have a reusable bag with you so you won't need to take a plastic or paper bag from the store. :)
What’s your favourite TAMGA piece at the moment?
I’m in love with the Sumatra green floral print! I love wearing my off the shoulder Mila top with the high waisted Karina skirt. The best thing about these two pieces is that they go great together, and also with different tops and bottoms if you switch one of them out.
Do you have any exciting projects or trips planned for 2019?
One of our members, Molly Bair, was interning at Pure Earth, a charity that works to combat global pollution and is in many of the world’s poorest countries helping people clean up toxic waste. Every year Pure Earth throw a gala and auction of sustainably made jewelry to raise money for their projects. Last year, Molly modeled for them and this year, a group of us are going to be a part of the photoshoot and share the photos online to raise awareness of Pure Earth’s work and the gala. It’s a great way combine our skills and use our platforms for the greater good!