Interview: Arizona Muse on How to Live a Better Life
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Arizona Muse wants to change the way we live. We should take what she has to say seriously, says Lucy Cleland
A Whole New World: Interview with Arizona Muse
It’s taking a while for our Whatsapp interview to get going. Arizona Muse is desperately trying to find signal down on the farm in Devon where she’s staying for the foreseeable, as well as looking after her two children, Cy, one, and Nikko, 10. We finally connect and what follows is an hour and a half’s edifying conversation in which Arizona, the gazelle-like model with the wide-set eyes at the top of her game and, more notably, sustainability activist, talks eruditely and enthusiastically about what policies she might implement if she had the prime minister’s ear. They’re well worth a listen.
But let’s rewind a few weeks to a time before planes were grounded and countries shut their borders, when shelves were fit to burst with loo roll and facemasks were the preserve of Chinese tourists. We were lucky enough to shoot our cover before social isolation became the government directive, but we were still advised not to hug or kiss.
I’d half expected Arizona to pull out given the uncertainty over Covid-19. But no: low-key and eco-conscious, she was all set to arrive by train from London to Chewton Glen in the New Forest, had it not been cancelled. Then for lunch she ordered a burger. I was a little surprised, given a model’s usual regime, but you’ll understand why later. And she was game for anything, too. It wasn’t exactly warm outside, but the 31-year-old American-English beauty was happy to stay semi-clad in vintage Dior, Temperley and Westwood until our photographer got the right shot. She even posed precariously on a moss-covered stone balustrade with a long drop down, crouching on it like the sleekest of leopards. The trope of model as mute clotheshorse was well and truly obliterated.
However, it was our slightly intermittent phone conversation a few weeks later that made me forget the world’s most immediate troubles for a while, and led me down an imaginary path to a place where our respect for the land, for farming, for nature and for family has usurped our almost relentless need for economic growth and over-consumption. After all, Arizona is the girl who posted on Instagram: ‘Climate Change needs to hire Corona Virus’s publicist’, and it’s this issue that keeps her motivated and focussed – and the reason she’s still in the high fashion game. Read Arizona Muse’s modern manifesto right here, in her own words.
I believe farming is pretty much the most important thing humans can do right now. It connects us with nature, from which we’ve become so distant. This is detrimental to our mental health, our creativity and even our parenting. Parents are glued to their screens and missing out on nurturing relationships with their own children. Farming brings us in touch with the things that are important – land, soil and creativity – but I’m a firm advocate that it has to be done regeneratively and biodynamically.
What does that mean? It means starting with the question: ‘How can I get the richest and most nutritious food while supporting the health of the soil and the organisms within it?’ Animals have a role in this and, despite their bad reputation for over-production of methane, cows are the most effective creatures for keeping our soil healthy. Their manure is richly beneficial for soil, especially once it’s been composted properly – this creates a wide variety of enzymes and bacteria that are amazing for soil health.
Biodynamic farming also uses preparations, which are homeopathic treatments made with the potent properties of local plants, animals and minerals. They are made on farms by farmers to support composting, to spray on trees and fields. They can also be used in rewilding projects and to strengthen nature so that more carbon can be sequestered by the healthier plants and fungi that result.
POLICY: All land – not necessarily just that which is agricultural but that which can be rewilded so people and animals can enjoy it in its wildness – should be converted into biodynamically, cared-for land, with preparations used to help regenerate it. These preparations help hugely to revitalise soils and plants, and therefore support carbon capture, pollution filtration, and the overall wellbeing of the land.
How I eat now is the most bountiful, rich and enjoyable way I have ever eaten. I’ve never felt so satiated in my life. I base my whole menu around fats and vegetables – I consume almost no grains and very few carbohydrates as, from what I’ve read, humans are not set up to eat grains and they also take a huge amount of space to grow. I use organic butter as my main source of fat and biodynamically farmed meat – beef, lamb, bacon, anything really. The fats I eat support me so well my weight stays exactly the same; I actually exercise less now.
I used to work out like a maniac out of fear and body image issues, but now I have no fear. I’ve been through so many other ways of eating and they were all brutally exhausting, so I really sympathise with people trying to find the right way to eat; denying yourself things so your willpower disappears and your weight yo-yos. I don’t do that anymore. I have now learned to eat well for my health, well for the climate and in a relaxed way so I’m not anxious about it anymore.
POLICY: Food should be based around high-quality ingredients sourced from farms that are doing good for the climate, but farmers need support. They are already struggling financially and are often in debt from buying expensive chemicals and machinery. You don’t need these things in biodynamic farming, so costs would come down a lot. And while you are producing food with the highest nutritional content you are also regenerating the soil beneath the farm, so it’s able to better absorb rainfall. It also creates a biodiverse home for underground insects and microbes. There needs to be a lot of educational and financial support around learning a new way to farm.
Clothing and materials are a huge opportunity to support the right people. Whenever you buy something you are singlehandedly helping to support a business. So, you can choose to support ones that are conscious of the way they make their products and are using materials that are good for the environment, or you can choose to support a big conglomerate that’s probably responsible for awful working conditions and environmental degradation. It’s a big choice, but if we all think about it like that, it helps us to make the right one.
I start by buying second hand. Whatever you’re looking for, check whether it’s on eBay (set up alerts) or in charity shops. It’s really fun and it may take a little longer but that’s an adjustment in behaviour – we all agree behavioural change is the biggest step to solving the climate crisis. If you really can’t find it, look for it new, but read the label and look at the materials. Always buy organic – cotton, linens and wools. Currently you can’t buy organic leather because they don’t separate the hides at the abattoir (this should be a policy that could be implemented really quickly and easily), but I’d advise against buying vegan leather as it’s terrible for the environment.
I’m often asked how I square walking the catwalk in the latest couture show with sustainability. My answer is that it’s very important I continue modelling, because it’s my access point. Whenever I’m with a brand and a CEO, I talk to them about sustainability, I ask questions and I’m curious. The response I get is really encouraging. Many brands want to change, and I want to be there to help them do that. But just now I can’t say I won’t work with brands that aren’t sustainable – sadly, there just aren’t enough of them yet.
POLICY: Governments need to ban materials that are harmful to the environment outright. They need to implement a lot more nature- based solutions, and there has to be a lot more protection for the planet, rather than business. From reading the 2008 Climate Change Act, business is very much prioritised over and above the environment.
Natural beauty is really important. It comes from within – what you eat will affect your skin, as beauty and food are so closely linked. A lot of the medication we take also has an effect on the way we look, which we don’t always realise. I try to use only homeopathic medicines and I sometimes take vitamins. Currently my family is taking extra vitamin C, which is helpful for fighting any virus, but eating well, sleeping well and drinking lots of water are the real key.
I also love organic multi-tasking oils, such as evening primrose, which I use orally and topically. I make a great toner out of apple cider vinegar, water and vanilla extract. It’s really easy and keeps my skin in great condition. I’ve never really seen the difference in my skin from using a £200 cream – there are so many unnatural ingredients used in many of them, why would you put them on your second largest organ?
POLICY: Reduce the toxicity of ingredients used in the beauty industry and ban the most harmful ones. Aim to reduce and improve all packaging.
Modern travel should be a fun, educational experience that brings you closer to the people you love, to nature and to culture, and also opens your mind. Think about where you can go and what can you do by train that will teach you things and still be inspiring.
Here, on the farm [in Devon], we are going to be learning so much – how to grow food, how to fix things, how to care for animals – all really useful life skills that we’re not taught anymore. When we do travel, we need to experience local culture and ecosystems so we can understand more about the world – both natural and human. Also, I think that only people should have the privilege of flying in a plane; products and produce should not.
POLICY: The appreciation for travel has gone, so we need to change the way holidays are talked about – it’s not luxurious to be wasteful. Also, look at airports; no one is treated with respect, you feel like you’ve done something wrong. We need to make them more conducive to people caring and appreciating the trip they’re taking.
I feel strongly that parenting doesn’t come naturally. We’re not birds, so we’re not born knowing how to build our nests. We need to learn, to consult with experts and to read books, so we can understand child behaviour, wellness and development. Also, society doesn’t seem to value the family very highly anymore. A parent is expected to leave the house early to get to work on time and work late to be productive, so if you have young children you hardly see them. Then at the weekend you’re so tired, you might not be your best self. As children require a lot of undivided attention, they’re given screen time as compensation.
The Nordic countries have designed the week around families, so parents work shorter hours and can spend dinner and breakfast time together in a non-stressful way. A woman can still have it all, but there’s a simple flaw that we forgot to factor in: if you take a woman out of domestic life half the time, you have to put the man (or other partner) back in the other half in order to balance the equation.
POLICY: Parents should be educated in child development, so they know what their children need and how they should be spoken to. The world also needs to be designed so it works for children. Parents should be able to divide their time in a way that’s best for the family.
With these policies, Arizona believes we can have a happier society. Not one dependent on medication and screens, but one that values family time, work time and playtime; one that values our food systems, our nutrition and our closeness to nature. Perhaps Covid-19 and the current enforced social distancing measures will give us the much-needed time and space to consider how we start remodelling the world for the better.
Fashion Director: Nicole Smallwood
Photographer: Carla Guler