Lily Cole is a bona fide 21st century Renaissance woman. Yes, there are the campaigns, covers, catwalks, editorials – for Vogue, Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Vuitton, Gaultier and Prada, amongst others – to which she has lent her unique beauty. But, increasingly, as Cole gets older – and she is still only in her 20s – she is giving her energies and her famously fierce intelligence to a growing stable of ethically aware projects.
She’s always been interested. As the face of De Beers, Cole didn’t simply stand around for a few photos. She went to the Kalahari to see for herself the plight of the Bushmen. While there she discovered their hand-crafted ostrich eggshell jewellery and introduced the range to various prestigious retailers.
In addition to this, there is her knitwear label North Circular, jumpers and scarves, made in the UK, from the wool of rescued sheep (5 per cent of all profits and all of Cole’s are donated to Environmental Justice Foundation, where she is Patron). There is her investment, with her friend Lucy Walker, in the tiny but vital independent arts bookshop, Claire de Rouen Books. And most recently, there is her launch of a socially networked gift economy website, impossible.com, which counters the concept of a financial economy with the offer of free help to anyone who asks for it.
Now, this spring, Cole designs a bespoke, organic, fairly traded and very good-looking t-shirt in support of EJF’S Climate campaign. And Lily being Lily, nothing about it is glib. The graphic is a play on Darwin’s drawing of evolution, placing a woman where a man has traditionally been portrayed, captioned: ‘Endangered species’.
‘The image tries to call attention to the fact that by threatening the environment – our global home – we genuinely threaten our species’ own existence,’ she says. ‘It’s a sobering, but I do not believe unrealistic, thought.’
Exclusive to Selfridges in-store and online at www.selfridges.com from Friday 14th March,