The following is excerpted from a speech that supermodel-activist Angela Lindvall delivered at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s “Clean by Design” luncheon at the Colony Club in New York City on Wednesday.
I’m mostly known for my work as a model, but I’m also known for my deep care and commitment to environmental awareness. In 2001, I created what was called the Collage Foundation. At that time, I was blown away to discover such alarming information about the state of our planet. Yet it wasn’t on the front page of all the newspapers. When I started Collage, I saw that fashion and media have a huge influence on the masses. Our mission at Collage was to use pop culture and media as a means to stimulate awareness and provide information and solutions for change.
Lindvall with jeweler John Hardy in Bali.
Since then, it’s been a wonderful thing to see the word “green” become so widely used, to see our products on our supermarket shelves offer “organic,” and to see real environmental issues making an impact in mainstream media.
At the same time, it’s been frustrating to see progress move at a snail’s pace, considering all we now know about our impact on the planet and how our choices affect the health of our people.
The hopeful news is that we live in an age of massive technological advances; we have the ability to access all information at the click of a button. We have the scientific genius to create new ways to live in harmony with our environment without having to go back to living like cavemen.
However, since the dawn of the industrial revolution, we’ve created industry in a way that no longer serves our greatest needs yet continues to cheaply mass-produce everything we think we need. But these models existed before we had the infrastructures we have now. We also had far fewer people on the planet.
Many of these systems have become archaic, and we the people continue to buy into the messaging that we need this or that to make us happy—some object of desire or disposable merchandise that may uplift us for a moment.
But what is it that really makes us happy?
How can we enjoy the arts, fashion, style, and find true happiness within? Without our consumption leaving track marks on the face of our Mother Earth and, in return, having to pay the price with ourselves and the planet? That is not a price we should be willing to pay.
The beautiful thing about fashion is that it has always been a sign of our times. It’s an art form that celebrates self-expression. Our personal “style” is how we show up in the world. What “style” is, along with our choices and intentions, can have a major impact on the world.
It’s time that we define who we are as humanity, and how we want this ship to go.
And that’s only the beginning! We can continue to enjoy producing goods, and enjoy our creations of expression, without destroying our planet.
It makes perfect sense to use the fashion industry as a catalyst for this movement. The resources and possibilities exist. There’s so much we can do to improve the way we live, our impact on the Earth, what products we buy, how we spend our time, and where we focus.
It’s also time that all industries, and not just fashion, see the impact these choices have on the way we conduct business, so that we can all continue to thrive. This is the paradigm shift.
One day we’ll look back and see how silly we were to abuse the resources we were given, and how lost we were in our ideas of what made us happy. We’ll have a new form of reverence for life itself, as we begin to realign with that which is most important to us.
In my journey as an environmentalist, I wanted to change the world. We have to come together to continue doing that.
But I have also learned that we must first focus on healing ourselves, and through doing so, heal our planet. This starts with our minds—how we think, our choices, our bodies, what we eat and wear, and our style—and the spirit in which we show up in the world.
I’m excited to be a part of these times. I love being a part of an industry that’s constantly evolving and shifting in perception. And I look forward to seeing these new shifts become a part of the way we lead our businesses and personal lives.