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Arizona Muse On Getting Her Hands DIRT-y

From fashion weeks to the front pages of magazines, Arizona Muse is no stranger to the limelight and the world of fashion. But what you may not know is that she’s also not afraid to get her hands DIRT-y.

What do a supermodel and DIRT have in common? Pretty much nothing. But in Arizona Muse’s case, a great deal. Muse is actively involved in sustainability initiatives and has founded DIRT Charity, which focuses on regenerative earth practices and climate solutions.

At this point in her career, Arizona is more synonymous with the world of sustainability than being the face of a luxury brand, which she used to be. A renowned supermodel with an impressive portfolio in the fashion industry, having worked with top photographers and iconic brands around the world, she’s now transitioned away from her career in modelling. She notes: “I look a lot at systems change within my activism, and we need to be valuing these as much as it’s the carbon that is already valued very highly in the mainstream climate narrative.”

Here, Arizona chats with GITNB’s CEO Sean Lee-Davies when she was in Singapore last October for The Conscious Festival 2023 as a guest speaker, all about her journey from in front of the lens to the soils on our feet.

I look a lot at systems change within my activism, and we need to be valuing these as much as it’s the carbon that is already valued very highly in the mainstream climate narrative.

Arizona Muse

Her sustainability journey started because of a luncheon which led her to start her charity DIRT

Arizona Muse’s passion for the environment and sustainable fashion was ignited during a captivating encounter at a charity luncheon hosted by Synchronicity Earth, dedicated to biodiversity preservation. This serendipitous introduction opened her eyes to the intricate web of biodiversity, setting her on a transformative path towards eco-consciousness and environmental activism. This pivotal moment, mingling with the founder of Synchronicity Earth, Jessica Sweidan, and the founder of The Sustainability Angle, Nina Marenzi, and delving into the fascinating realm of biodiversity, heralded the dawn of her journey into the vibrant world of sustainability.

“It [biodiversity] wasn’t present in my life in the fashion industry, and I started to learn more about it. And then I was introduced by Jessica Sweidan, who’s the founder of that charity, to Nina Morenzi, who’s the founder of the Sustainable Angle, and both those women have been mentors to me and really supported my journey into learning and becoming the outspoken activist that I am now in the fashion space and advocating for change. It was the moment for me when I realised that biodiversity and fashion are connected, that I am accountable because I wear clothes, that I can make a difference, and that my life is actually impacting, whether I choose to or not.”

This introduction to the concept of biodiversity was also the genesis of her charity, DIRT.

She named her charity “DIRT” because of its connection to fashion

Arizona chose to christen her charity “DIRT” as a poignant nod to the intrinsic tie between fashion and the planet. With this moniker, she underscores the profound link between the soil and the materials that shape our garments, like fibres and leather, which are cultivated by diligent farmers.Through this choice, she endeavours to draw awareness to the origins of fashion materials and the profound influence of sustainable methodologies on our planet.

“Now I want to bring you to the real detail, which is that our fashion is grown in soil by farmers. The fibres for our fashion and the leather for our fashion are grown by farmers. And that is something that I was totally unaware of, even having had a career as a model.“

There’s a need for accountability in the fashion industry

While it’s not exactly headline-worthy, we’re all well aware of this fact. However, delving into Arizona’s perspectives from her extensive experience in the fashion realm reveals profound insights. It’s not merely a matter of acknowledging the necessity for change; Arizona passionately champions accountability and sustainability within the industry. She advocates for establishing direct connections in the supply chain, even calling herself a “nerd for supply chains. I want to know everything about them,”  and urges brands to actively embrace sustainable practices. Moreover, she openly shares her personal journey within the industry, highlighting shifts in the brands she collaborates with and her dedication to sustainability endeavours.

“I was six years into my career as a model when I realised that I didn’t know where they were coming from. They don’t just, poof, grow in factories. There were many, many, many steps before that, and every thread of every story in the fashion supply chain started on the ground. With a seed that was planted, a cotton seed, or a mulberry tree seed, and mulberry tree leaves are fed to silkworms, and that’s how we make silk, and it’s always an agricultural story, and I realised how agriculture and fashion are actually so much more strongly linked than I had imagined. “

Believe it or not, she doesn’t get as many options as she used to

Transitioning from being a full-time model to an environmental activist and founder of a charity wasn’t exactly the easiest for Arizona’s modelling career. But for Arizona, it’s not the end of the world. 

“I don’t get as many options as I used to, so luckily, it’s easier for me than it would have been had I tried to do this 13 years ago at the beginning of my career when I was super selective. My agents were super selective about who I was working with, but not on the criteria of environmental wellness; they were selective on totally different metrics of prestige, names, and things like that. I just won’t work with a business if I know that they’re doing everything wrong and that they’re not even starting the journey. It’s not worth it. I’m lucky that I can say no, and I hope that another job will come in with a brand that is doing something better. ” 

In fact, sometimes she even gets chosen because of her activism. 

“And I love when it happens that I’m chosen because of my activism to model; that’s a great feeling. That’s like, yes, it’s all worth it. It is. They are seeing that the fashion industry is noticing that this does need to change, and that feels really great. I have a Chloé perfume coming out soon and a Brunello Cucinelli perfume as well. Both times, I was chosen for my advocacy work. And I was like, Oh, thank you. That feels really good.”

Her one piece of advice to aspiring models? Not to allow the modelling industry to overshadow all other parts of their lives, as she believes it has the ability to entirely consume them. Instead, she encourages models to pursue a variety of passions and interests in addition to their modelling careers.

“Don’t have it be your only interest because it will absorb you and consume you like it did me, because they don’t think I’m an anomaly. From the other models that I’ve spoken to, it’s not just me who got pretty destroyed by modelling. I’m sure there are some who didn’t, but maybe it’s because they had another interest as well and a strong passion, so that’s what I would recommend for anyone getting into modelling.”

Arizona emphasises that it’s important to recognise our own influence and power

Let’s be honest. The internal struggle to make a dent for real change in the world is not easy. It’s not something you can get over or solve in a day or head to a conference for an answer. And Arizona agrees. She accentuates the necessity of candid self-appraisal regarding our environmental footprint, advocating for the conscientious use of our influence to inspire transformative action.

“We live in a major city. We travel. Our impact is so much bigger than that of a rural family with 11 children. So let’s be honest with ourselves about who are the ones in the world who are having the biggest impact, and take that and don’t let it sink you into a puddle of discontent, but let it motivate you to change and use your influence and your power because it’s not fair on those who don’t have influence if we who do have influence are not trying to make a difference.”

She believes that activism can be a meaningful way of being human and emphasises the importance of finding one’s own path as an “interactivist” for the benefit of both humanity and the planet.

“I invite everyone to find their own interactivist and go on this path. It’s probably the most meaningful thing that we can do. And it’s pretty good for the planet as well. And the planet loves it. I feel like Mother Earth is… She’s very in tune with humans. And I do not subscribe to the school of thought that thinks that humans are parasites destroying the planet, when actually the planet’s trying to get rid of us.”

The world of sustainability and wellness is interconnected, and we need to pay deeper attention

It’s safe to say that Arizona Muse is deeply concerned about the climate crisis and is actively involved in sustainability initiatives. Emphasising on the intersection between the climate movement and wellness, she highlights the importance of taking care of oneself in order to effectively care for the Earth.

“The sustainability movement is not just about counting carbon. That won’t save us if we continue to count carbon at the rate that we’re counting carbon and have these 2050 targets for net zero. We’re going to forget about all the other things that are equally important, like biodiversity increasing, water pollution decreasing, human wellness, and societal wellness… this culture of joy, appreciation, self-love, awe, and plant medicine. We’re all working from this place on the solutions that we’re working on in mental health and climate. It’s an amazing space to be in.”

By the way….

If this piqued your interest, we’re more than happy to let you know that Arizona Muse dives even deeper into discussing the world of fashion, sustainability, wellness, and so much more in Episode 11, of the Our Future Nature Podcast, hosted by Sean Lee-Davies. Listen to the full episode on Spotify for Arizona’s thoughts and more of her journey in the world of sustainability. Or you can also check out the full episode on YouTube where Sean interviews Arizona at 1880 Singapore.

FEATURE IMAGE:Teodora Berglund