Where others make half-hearted statements about sustainability, the model Arizona Muse goes one step further. After moving to Ibiza with her husband and two children, “to lead a life closer to nature, where I can also practice what I preach in my activism,” as Muse says, it now founded the non-profit organization “Dirt“(Eng. dirt), which is dedicated to promoting biodynamic agriculture.
Arizona Muse tells us in an interview what this regenerative form of agriculture means and what the fashion industry still has to do in order to be positioned for a sustainable future.
Have you always been concerned with the topic of sustainability (in fashion)?
I’ve always had a strong relationship with nature. I was born in New Mexico where the people I grew up with all had a deep understanding of the environment. I think I took that for granted at the time, because it wasn’t until about five years as a model that it dawned on me that I had no idea where the clothes I worked in came from, what they were made of and who made them.
So I decided to go on a journey to find out where the materials came from. As anyone who’s started their own sustainability journey knows, once you’ve started, you can’t stop. The more I researched, the more shocked I was at how toxic fashion can be to the environment and how intertwined everything is. For me, the relationship between fashion and agriculture is particularly profound.
Even today, so few people think that the clothes they wear come from a farm! Most of us have no idea how the cow was raised that produces the leather for our favorite bag, how healthy the soil is that the cotton for our favorite t-shirts and jeans grows on, or that it is trees, from which the Tencel in our leggings is obtained. Consumers and brands are completely detached from the source of their clothing. We have lost touch with the fibers that fill our closets and, more importantly, how it affects the health of the planet.
How exactly did you receive further training?
I spent all of my free time googling, going to events, meeting amazing people: scientists, activists, eco-conscious designers, all of whom taught me a lot. I also took a sustainable business course at Cambridge University so I felt more confident when I went to shoots and started talking to people about how they could do better.
Since then, I’ve worked with groups like Fashion Revolution, who are committed to changing the way clothes are sourced and consumed. I’ve worked as a sustainability consultant for a couple of brands and I’m on the board of directors The Sustainable Angle, a non-profit organization that drives projects that minimize the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
Sustainable fashion used to have this terrible reputation of being earthy and brown and boring. Now I think we are in a really exciting time with some brands making beautiful clothes that have not just a minimal, but in some cases a positive impact on the planet. I firmly believe that fashion can be a positive business for the planet.
You have now founded the organization “Dirt”, which is dedicated to biodynamic agriculture. How did that happen?
Nature-based solutions for climate change have always appealed to me. They are often cost effective and easy to implement on a large scale. I’ve spent some of my happiest times on farms and seen firsthand the benefits of regenerative farming practices. Biodynamic farming is, in my opinion, the very best option because of its impact on the land and the communities that work on it.
Biodynamic agriculture is almost 100 years old. It was the first form of sustainable farming system that emerged in response to the industrialization of agriculture. It is a holistic approach to land management that focuses on ecological, social and economic stability. It focuses on promoting biodiversity, community well-being and regenerating the soil so that it can store more water and remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
It’s already popular in viticulture and I wanted to try to find a way to encourage its adoption in other sectors like fashion. “Dirt” aims to help biodynamic farmers spread their craft and build new markets, as consumers’ appetite for organic products and improved soil health is growing, not least to combat the climate crisis
As a fundraising model, we work as follows: We find projects within the biodynamic movement worldwide and suitable donors to support them. We are also responsible for creating content so that the story can be told as an educational tool.
What are the benefits of biodynamic farming?
I think all types of regenerative agriculture are great, and it’s wonderful to see brands like The North Face, Burberry, Timberland, Patagonia, Stella McCartney, and Eileen Fisher all starting to see it as a solution to reducing their environmental footprint .
I wanted to look specifically at biodynamics for several reasons.
I love the impact it has on the communities that work on the farms. We must do everything we can to ensure that these people, who sit at the heart of so many industries, are able to enjoy their wonderful and important work.
The impact it has on biodiversity, nature and the soil is also astonishing. Biodynamics recognizes that plants have a material form that we can touch and even eat, but they also have something in them that keeps them alive and makes them grow, that is the non-physical part and biodynamics works with it this non-physical element and creates a vitality on the farm that is different from any other.
And, what is really important, because it is protected by a certification called Demeter. Without certification, especially in industries such as the fashion industry, which tend to greenwash, words such as regenerative can be adopted and lose their meaning – as is already the case with “sustainable” and “environmentally friendly”. This certification ensures that a number of standards are met that require improvements in soil health and community wellbeing, and that the term cannot be used in a misleading manner.
The industry has no choice but to fulfill its sustainability ambitions, and do it quickly. … Consumers: Inside demand more and more, and brands that want to survive have to keep up
What else does the fashion industry have to do to be positioned for a sustainable future?
The industry has no choice but to fulfill its sustainability ambitions, and do it quickly. It won’t be easy, but for the first time the global fashion industry is experiencing a profound moment of reckoning and many brands are trying to make a systemic change in the way they do business. Consumers are demanding more and more, and brands that want to survive have to keep up.
It is clear that the slow “step by step” approach to becoming sustainable needs to be replaced by a “let’s do as much as we can until we are fully regenerative and let’s start now” approach . If we had started the step-by-step approach 45 years ago it would have been good, but we haven’t, so we don’t have time for it now.
Why has the fashion industry found it so difficult for so long to commit itself more to sustainable and ethical production?
Clothing has complex supply chains that make it difficult to capture all of the emissions that are created in the manufacture of a particular item. In addition, there is how the clothing is transported and disposed of when the: the consumer: no longer wants to wear it. While many consumer products suffer from similar problems, what makes the fashion industry particularly challenging is the insane pace of change that it not only makes but promotes. With each new season, customers are encouraged to buy the latest items in order to stay on trend. There is also a feeling that people – both those who work for the brands and those who buy from the brands – are sometimes willing to turn a blind eye to the atrocities that affect nature and the textile workers: inside committed just to “get a good deal.”
As a model, do you already decide in terms of sustainable and ethical production processes whether you work for certain labels or not?
That’s a question I ask myself almost every day. There are certainly some companies I wouldn’t work with and there will definitely be a day when I decide never to work with a brand again that is unsustainable, but for now, modeling is still my entry point. If I’m at a photo shoot, guess what I do all day? I chat about sustainability and how fun it is for people who can make a difference in how the brand works.
How does the topic of sustainability determine your private life?
I’ve switched everything in our house to the sustainable alternative, from toothbrushes and deodorant to vegetables and toys. I also realized that because I live in a city in the developed world, despite all these changes, I have an extremely high carbon footprint. For this reason, among other things, my husband and I decided to move to Ibiza with our two children, aged 12 and 2, to live a life closer to nature, where I also do what I preach in my activism can practice.