Su­per­model Doutzen Kroes wants to do work with a pos­i­tive im­pact.

Doutzen Kroes is us­ing her su­per­model in­flu­ence to bring at­ten­tion to the Elephant Cri­sis Fund.

Fashion (Canada) - - Contents - By Is­abel B. Slone Pho­tog­ra­phy by Chris Colls

When Doutzen Kroes picks up the phone, her voice is breathy and has a faint Dutch accent that makes the let­ter “v” tum­ble out of her mouth as a pil­lowy “f.” It’s the kind of posh in­ter­na­tional accent you’d ex­pect from one of the top su­per­mod­els of her gen­er­a­tion. What’s equally charm­ing is the ca­sual way she ex­plains away her supernova suc­cess. “I’m very lucky I was born a cer­tain way,” she says sim­ply. It’s a hum­ble out­look that may have come from grow­ing up in Easter­mar, a ru­ral vil­lage lo­cated 160 kilo­me­tres from Am­s­ter­dam.

Kroes launched her ca­reer af­ter read­ing a glossy mag­a­zine when she was 18. She says she re­mem­bers be­ing over­come with a de­sire to look as glam­orous and beau­ti­ful as the mod­els she saw. She de­cided to send pho­tos of her­self to an Am­s­ter­dam-based mod­el­ling agency listed in the mag­a­zine. The pho­tos were lost in the mail, but af­ter she sent them a second time, the com­pany even­tu­ally re­ceived them and called her right away to re­quest a meet­ing. Kroes had never trav­elled to the cap­i­tal be­fore. She was signed al­most im­me­di­ately, booked a few shoots in the city and was soon liv­ing and mod­el­ling in New York.

“When I started out, the in­dus­try was more play­ful and not as cal­cu­lated,” says Kroes. “Now, be­cause of so­cial me­dia, every­one knows ev­ery­thing—there are all these 15-year-old girls who know all the big pho­tog­ra­phers and fash­ion de­sign­ers. I had no idea; I was a naive girl who barely spoke English. Be­ing shy didn’t help, so I ba­si­cally said noth­ing all day. I was home­sick a lot, but, step by step, I grew into it.”

Kroes went from be­ing a small-town girl to scor­ing a fairly reg­u­lar spot on Forbes’s list of high­est-paid mod­els for more than a decade. That alone is an amaz­ing feat, but what’s even more in­spir­ing is that she still has a re­fresh­ingly grate­ful per­spec­tive. “Doutzen is a very »

grounded per­son,” says Tr­ish Goff, a for­mer model who is now a real es­tate agent. “She’s not a diva at all. She’s very real and kind, and she’s got her feet on the ground. She’s hon­est. Other mod­els don’t feel com­pet­i­tive with her.”

That’s im­pres­sive in any in­dus­try but par­tic­u­larly in mod­el­ling, where good genes, con­nec­tions and luck can change a young woman’s life or, mi­nus the con­nec­tions and luck, leave her en­vi­ously watch­ing from the side­lines. Kroes’s ca­reer flour­ished like a suc­cu­lent on a mil­len­nial’s win­dowsill. She dom­i­nated the run­ways in the aughts, landed cam­paigns for L’Oréal, Calvin Klein and Tif­fany & Co. and earned a coveted spot as a Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret An­gel, which she held un­til her re­tire­ment from the brand in 2015.

But the en­tire time she was ca­vort­ing in swim­suits on Mi­ami Beach and wear­ing glit­tery An­gel wings, Kroes felt that her work wasn’t hav­ing enough of a pos­i­tive im­pact on the world. Goff says she un­der­stands how this feel­ing of “hav­ing some­thing that is your own—that you’re part of and that you con­trol” is cru­cial to a model’s sense of self-worth.

Kroes has al­ways thought that it’s im­por­tant to use the pub­lic plat­form she has wisely. Right now, that means lend­ing her voice to the Elephant Cri­sis Fund for its “Knot on My Planet” cam­paign. The “knot” has a dou­ble mean­ing: It’s a ref­er­ence to the tra­di­tion of ty­ing a knot around one’s finger to re­mem­ber some­thing im­por­tant as well as a nod to the elephant’s un­canny me­mory.

For the cam­paign, Holt Ren­frew col­lab­o­rated with eth­i­cal ba­sics brand Kotn and il­lus­tra­tor Melody Hansen to cre­ate a lim­it­ededi­tion T-shirt fea­tur­ing a min­i­mal­ist line draw­ing of an elephant. The shirt is cur­rently avail­able, and Holts will do­nate 100 per cent of the prof­its, as well as 10 per cent of the pro­ceeds up to $200,000 from a char­ity shop­ping week­end on April 13 and 14, to the Elephant Cri­sis Fund.

“I love all an­i­mals, of course, but it was dev­as­tat­ing to hear about the cri­sis,” says Kroes, ex­plain­ing that 30,000 ele­phants are killed ev­ery year (or the equiv­a­lent of one elephant ev­ery 15 min­utes) for their ivory. The Elephant Cri­sis Fund, which Kroes has been work­ing with for two years, has raised $17 mil­lion to­ward 152 projects in 31 coun­tries to ad­dress the poach­ing of ele­phants and the traf­fick­ing of ivory. Kroes has per­suaded many of her high-wattage friends to par­tic­i­pate, in­clud­ing Linda Evan­ge­lista, Christy Turling­ton and Naomi Camp­bell. The three of them were even pho­tographed to­gether for the cam­paign, a rare oc­cur­rence since the ’90s. “I’m so grate­ful that so many peo­ple in the fash­ion world par­tic­i­pated in our cam­paign and were so en­thu­si­as­tic,” says Kroes. “I thought, ‘That’s why I went to all the fash­ion par­ties over the years!’”

Kroes booked her first trip to The Sam­buru Na­tional Re­serve in 2016 on the rec­om­men­da­tion of David Bon­nou­vrier, her agent, and Goff, his fi­ancée. “They prob­a­bly knew that if they sent me, I could be­come their global am­bas­sador,” she says. “That’s ex­actly how it was,” con­firms Goff. “We had an idea and told her to go and meet the ele­phants.” Of all the world’s top mod­els they have at their dis­posal, why did Bon­nou­vrier and Goff pick Kroes as the face of an in­ter­na­tional cam­paign? “Every­one likes Doutzen,” says Goff.

For Kroes, it was the ele­phants’ emo­tional na­ture that struck her most. “They are so emo­tion­ally sim­i­lar to hu­man be­ings,” says Kroes, not­ing the way her antsy son calmed down in their pres­ence. Her chil­dren, Phyl­lon Joy, 7, and Myl­lena Mae, 3, also mo­ti­vate her to get in­volved. “I’ve al­ways felt like it’s my duty to give back,” she says.

Kroes and her hus­band, Sun­nery James, have cho­sen to raise their chil­dren in Hol­land in a quiet, whole­some set­ting away from the hus­tle of New York City. “We’re both Dutch, so it’s nice to have the kids grow up with fam­ily around them,” she says. “They’re our link to the fu­ture, and I want them to live in a great world.”

Kroes and the ele­phants she’s try­ing to pro­tect share a few no­table traits: Their emo­tional lives are rich, and fam­ily life is im­por­tant. And when they want some­thing, it’s prob­a­bly best to get out of their way.

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