Arizona Muse on fashion ethics, getting back on carbs and having a second baby. Emily Cronin (also pregnant) shares her cinnamon buns
Arizona Muse is twisting backwards to check the care label inside the waistband of her limoncello-yellow cropped trousers. ‘Right – these are made of 100-per-cent recycled material. I was really, really pleased when I saw that.’ She hesitates, as if wondering whether to qualify the statement. ‘But then the lining is viscose, which could be good or could be bad…’
She takes a deep breath and dives in. ‘Viscose is derived from trees – yes, it’s good that it’s made from trees; no, it’s not good if it’s made from rainforest trees, or from trees grown using pesticides and herbicides that kill off all insects native to a forested area. And turning a tree into a piece of cloth is a heavy chemical process, so if you don’t have the right water-treatment systems in place and you’re dumping those chemicals into the nearest river, then suddenly viscose is horrible. It’s complicated.’
Models are by job spec more expected to know their angles than to fathom the finer points of fabric manufacturing. But Muse – the leonine supermodel who has opened Chanel shows, graced Vogue covers and appeared in campaigns for Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton and Prada – is also a walking, talking, autodidactic encyclopedia on the subject of her chosen industry’s environmental impact. After a decade in fashion, and while she’s still very much in demand on the runway, she’s pivoting to focus on sustainability.
‘It’s something I’ve wanted to do for such a long time and I wasn’t brave enough,’ she says. ‘I started years ago learning about sustainability and fashion, and how urgently the industry needs to change. Fashion is very damaging – it’s one of the most polluting industries in the world, and no one can argue otherwise. But that’s not depressing. It’s exciting, because there’s so much potential and so many solutions out there.’
Muse admits that as a topic, sustainability – an elastic term she uses to refer to a garment or brand’s environmental impact, rather than its ethical-trade credentials – ‘is so science-heavy that it can get boring. So I wanted to do something really fun with it, something where it would be impossible for people to get bored.’
To that end she’s launching a line of ‘party dresses for birthday girls’ with friend and former Matthew Williamson artistic director Georgie Macintyre. The range, slated for a February 2019 launch, doesn’t yet have a name, confirmed stockists or a price list, but Muse says the first collection will consist of 10 dresses with plenty of embellishment and vibrant colour. She’s sure it’ll make a splash: ‘They’re going to be bright, fun, life-of-the-party dresses. We really want them to go out and make the world happy.’
Mitigating fashion’s environmental impact has felt urgent to Muse since she first began delving into the problematic aspects behind all the gloss, but the issue has assumed fresh immediacy since she learnt that she’s pregnant. She’s due to welcome her second child – her first with husband Boniface Verney-carron, an osteopath to the A-list – in November. She shared the news in an Instagram post (the caption read simply, ‘We’re
having a baby!’) about a week after the couple celebrated their first wedding anniversary, in June.
Muse adores being pregnant – ‘It’s an amazing experience and I wish all women could enjoy it’ – and part of that is allowing herself to soften into the temporary state. ‘I’m so tired that I just can’t exercise. And I love to exercise! It’s not uncommon for me to finish a class and wish it had been harder, and right now the thought of an indoor cycling class is like a horror film.’
She’s hungry – ‘Every three hours I feel like I haven’t eaten all day’ – and is loosening her dietary regime. She craves fruit juice and is eating more sugar than usual. Carbs are very much back on the table (much to the relief of this also-pregnant interviewer, who turned up to Muse’s Hyde Park flat clutching a box of cinnamon buns, warmly received). ‘I need carbs so much. I would literally go crazy without them.
‘My body’s changing and that’s totally fine with me. It feels really good, actually. It should change… it will change back afterwards.’
She should know. Unusually, Muse’s career skyrocketed only after she had her son, Nikko, at 19. She remembers feeling ‘like it was me and my baby against the world’. When he was still an infant, she moved far from her family in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to New York City to pursue modelling. In September 2010, her first year on the show circuit, she opened and closed for Prada and Miu Miu. Top campaigns followed. Though she was lonely and had ‘this constant fear that it was all going to be over tomorrow and that no one would choose me again’, knowing she had a baby to support also fuelled Muse, giving her the grit that US Vogue’s Anna Wintour would reference when she praised the model as ‘a gorgeous, smart grown-up’ in an editor’s letter.
This time around already feels completely different. For one thing, she no longer worries that her career may be a fluke. She’s matured. And she has a full partner in Verney-carron. (The couple – a Franco-american duo raising a bilingual, tri-cultural family in Brexit-era Britain – live an insanely photogenic life out of a flat filled with tasteful mid-century-modern furniture.)
‘I love being 29 as opposed to 19. It feels really good to be in a beautiful, committed relationship with my husband. We’re so excited and in love, and I have his support – I don’t feel I’m doing this alone at all… I feel like I was waiting for this my whole life. I really prefer being married.’
As with any second pregnancy, there is an element of the do-over. Muse is less obsessed with reading everything published on baby care (‘which I did when I was pregnant with Nikko’) or the material trappings of getting ready for her new arrival. First-time father Verney-carron, on the other hand, has that side of things covered. ‘He bought a crib. I haven’t bought a single piece of baby clothing and he bought the first one when I was two and a half months pregnant. It’s so cute.’
She’s determined to be stricter with sleep routines and schedules. ‘Why should I be exhausted for four months?’ she asks. ‘Children love boundaries – they make kids feel safe.’ And she’s going to breastfeed. ‘I loved breastfeeding so much. It’s the best thing ever and to know that all that good stuff is going into my child and building up their immune system and the good bacteria in their intestines for ever, plus the bonding – it’s important for so many reasons.’
For his part, Nikko, now nine, couldn’t be happier about becoming an older brother. Unless… ‘He’s had a strong opinion all his life that he doesn’t want a sister. I’m not going to find out what we’re having because I don’t want him to think he’ll be disappointed,’ she says. ‘But you know, if this little squidgy bundle is in his arms and he finds out it’s a girl, it’s not going to be a problem. It doesn’t matter at all.’
Before the baby arrives, Muse is planning to take Nikko to visit her mother in Massachusetts for part of the school holidays. She lives in an area surrounded by small farms. ‘We’re going to go and do some farm work and get our hands dirty and learn about biodynamic agriculture,’ Muse says with enthusiasm. Surely a touch of soil maintenance features in every nine-year-old boy’s summer fantasy, I suggest with an arched brow. ‘Oh yeah, he loves it.’
She returns to her favourite subject. ‘You know, through all my study of sustainability I’ve realised that it’s not just about fashion. Fashion is hand-in-hand with agriculture… biodynamic agriculture is the key to everything. You’ll see biodynamic silk in our collection. It’s amazing – like gold. I was so excited when I found that.’
Green eyes sparkling, it’s clear that sustainable fashion advocates couldn’t hope to find a more convincing champion than Muse. Although she insists that these days she wears compression socks more often than designer clothes, she’s on another plane entirely from the hemp-shirt-wearing stereotypes that have plagued the category in the past – and she knows what women want.
‘We want women to look good in these dresses, we want women to feel sexy in these dresses, we want women to feel confident in these dresses,’ she says. ‘Hopefully women will buy our dresses just because they love them, not because they’re sustainable. But if you learn a little bit about why we made your dress the way we did, that’ll be interesting and educational too.’
Muse had a ‘constant fear that it was all going to be over tomorrow and that no one would choose me again’
Above Shirt, £49.99, Mango Committed (mango.com). Linen trousers, £595, Alex Eagle (alexeagle.co.uk).Right Beige silk shirt dress, £495, Joseph ( joseph-fashion.com). Brown leather belt, £1,120, Hermès (hermes. com). Silver rings, from £30, Bar Jewellery (barjewellery.com)
Above Shirt and trousers, as before. Textured gold-plated necklace, £210, and gold-plated coin necklace, £210, Alighieri (alighieri.co.uk). Hair: Mark Hampton at Julian Watson Agency, using Davines. Make-up: Pep Gay at Management + Artists