Lily Cole on ethical fashion, loving London and saving the world

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Lily Cole is one of those people who possesses the enviable combination of both beauty and looks. The Cambridge graduate (did we mention she got double first honours in History of Art?) first started modelling at the age of 14 and she got her first Vogue cover at just 16-years-old.

She's also had starring roles in films such as The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, in which she starred with the late Heath Ledger, Snow White and the Huntsman, as well as playing a siren in an episode of Doctor Who.

Over the years, the actress and model has also become a supporter for environmental and humanitarian issues, such WaterAid, Comic Relief and Peta, who named her one of the sexiest vegetarians last year.

Recently, she also teamed up with Sky Rainforest Rescue - a sponsored_longform between Sky and WWF - to become an ambassador for the brand to help protect one billion trees.

Sky and WWF work with the local government in Acre, northwest Brazil, to tackle deforestation by enabling local people to make a fair living from sustainable rainforest products such as wild rubber. As part of her work, Lily teamed up with footwear specialists Veja to create a special collection, made with wild rubber

Despite the fact that Lily is currently to playing the role of Helen of Troy in Simon Armitage's The Last Days of Troy, she managed to find the time to speak to us about her role creating the collection and how we can all be more ethically minded.

How did this collaboration come about?

I was first connected with the Sky Rainforest Campaign about five years ago, when they asked me to support the project. Then two years ago they came to me with this proposal about the rubber trade in the Amazon and to go out there and make film about it. During that trip, I saw firsthand the crucial part that Sky Rainforest Rescue plays in creating demand for wild Amazonian rubber for companies like Veja, which aims to discourage farmers from deforestation. While I don’t think it’s going to be achieved through one collection it’s a start. The collection is more a talking point to set a precedent and to prove that it might work.

How much input did you have with the design of the collection?

I was pretty hands-on with help with the design, I shot loads of pictures while I was in the Amazon. Some of the main images I used – such a butterfly – were used for the trainers. Then we did a drawing of the different images and a really meticulous identical copy – I was really anal about it. And no creative license. It's literally the butterfly that was in the amazon. And then we tried different colour schemes and that was it.

How difficult is it to wear ethically sourced clothing particularly in fashion when the culture tends to be fairly disposable?

I really do try whenever I want to be mindful of the fact that whenever I buy something I know where it’s coming from. Whenever I have the opportunity to support who’s done the creating. And I do that with food too. Anything that I buy, I’ll always try to support more ethical, more Fair Trade, more local and more organic products where I can. There’s an increasing amount for people to get on board with that. But it’s difficult because there’s so much apathy towards the stories behind the objects.

If anyone is looking for advice on how to do this, what would you suggest?

First and foremost I would say buy less and pay more. And I think you should buy stuff you really love. We need to get away from this disposable, fast fashion culture, which I think many people think is totally acceptable. You know, the reality is that everything you buy has a load of people behind it. So make sure you invest in quality and you’re also going to love it and hopefully use it for longer.

Anywhere you can recommend?

There are opportunities if you look for them. You just have to want to find them.

In terms of your own style, do you have a uniform? Do you have a go-to look?

I do wear a lot of jeans, because they’re comfy and t-shirts with them. Now I probably wear more shorts and stuff but I don’t know. I hardly ever wear heels, because I had to wear them so much on the catwalk. Sometimes, if I dress up, but my feet always end up hurting!

You grew up in London, do you have any particular favourite shops?

I used to go a lot to lots of charity shops in Notting Hill Gate and there are a couple of other ones now, in central that sell vintage clothes I really love. I love buying vintage.

Do you have any particular places that you love to visit in London?

I just love walking across London and walking along the Thames. I love it because I always discover something new even though I know it well.

Lily Cole’s Veja footwear collection for Sky Rainforest Rescue is on sale from the first week of June 2014. For more information, please visit


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Stylist Team