“When I was younger—because I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico—I thought the world was full of environmental activists. ‘Now that they’re overpopulated, I’m not going to be one,’” Arizona Muse said in a recent Zoom call, speaking from home in London. A wry smile flashed across her face—one you undoubtedly recognize from a thousand magazine pages, along with runway shows and campaigns for such brands as Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Estée Lauder.
What���s the kid from the New-Age Southwest to do? “I went out to be a model and joined the fashion industry instead. You know, that small industry that no one knew about,” Muse continued, her deadpan delivery apparently taking after her British side of the family. “I now have remedied that misconception and turned right around to become an environmental activist because there are not enough of them.”
After six years spent wading into climate issues, Muse took on an official new post earlier this month, as Aveda’s first-ever global advocate for sustainability. The company, founded in 1978 by hairstylist and renegade formulator Horst Rechelbacher, has long been a pioneer in natural beauty, from botanical shampoos and recycled-plastic bottles to new blockchain-tracked sourcing for raw materials. (As of late last year, the entire line is vegan as well.) The brand finds a kindred spirit in Muse, who has a way of reframing a looming apocalypse as a cheery call to action.
“To represent Aveda, which shares all of my values and all my excitement about a regenerative future and about what we can do together to empower everyone to change the world, is just amazing,” the 32-year-old model said, her shoulder-length bob revealing a few extra inches of lockdown length. (She can thank the lightweight mask from the recent Botanical Repair collection for keeping her hair in good stead.) “I really encourage everyone to think of sustainability as fun,” Muse added—a game of problem-solving that rewards the player and the planet alike.
Here, Muse talks through her conversion story—from a model “just living in this blissfully privileged bubble” to an environmentalist mother of two—and shares her favorite sustainable essentials. (One was in plain sight: a giraffe-print upcycled silk shirt by the Italian brand Vernisse.) “I think climate change is a behavioral issue,” the model said, situating power with the people. “We don’t have to just rely on our habits as a modus operandi for the rest of our lives.”
Vanity Fair: What first set you on this path toward sustainability advocacy? Did growing up in the Southwest shape your thinking?
Arizona Muse: It definitely informed my later decision to become an environmentalist. But there was a big gap—like, I wasn’t a sustainable 22-year-old at all, at all. I was living an urban life, very unaware of my impact and what challenges the earth was facing, unaware of social-justice issues, and just living in this blissfully privileged bubble.
Then when I was about 27, I [started] learning a lot about biodiversity. I realized that I had no idea where these materials were coming from—what I was wearing and the clothes that I was selling. It was, like, Whoa. I need to know this. From there, I went on a deep dive of self-education on the environment and what the fashion industry was doing to the world and to the humans along the supply chain. And, wow, once you learn this stuff, you never go back.
Were there key moments that shaped your understanding?
I would say key mentors. I’m on the advisory board of the Sustainable Angle, which is a wonderful organization in London that sources sustainable fabrics for the fashion industry. It was like finding a needle in a haystack, when a designer wanted to do the right thing and start using sustainable materials. The design team would be like, “Where are they?”
That’s the problem that the Sustainable Angle solves, by providing a library of over 5,000 fabrics from all over the world that designers can come and learn about and choose from, and then source. So that’s amazing. I’ve learned so much from the founder, Nina Marenzi. And also Fashion Revolution. Orsola de Castro has taught me so much about workers’ rights and the globalization of labor and how it’s so toxic. It’s just not okay with me that somebody suffered in order for me to wear clothes. It does not make sense at all.
You gestured to your shirt at some point.
I did. This is a beautiful, upcycled silk shirt from Vernisse. I wear it a lot, actually, and that is one of the things I do—rewear and rewear and rewear. Why should I wear one thing to an event and never wear it again? Not many events recently to practice this at [laughs].
So much of kids’ stuff is about excess. How has being a mother shaped your activism?