Model Rachel Ford has been on our radar since we first saw her work with our partner brand Bead & Reel – but this sustainably minded model has a significant career lending her look to brands that respect animals, humans and the planet. From gracing the catwalk at the Fair Trade Fashion Show in Los Angeles to proudly proclaiming “In Plants We Trust” for vegan brand Beet x Beet, Rachel is an outspoken activist as well as a successful model – a rare, but much-needed combination. Using her skills to shed light on compassionate companies, Rachel has previously spoken to Vilda about why she chooses to work with vegan fashion, as well as wear it in her spare time. We decided to delve a little deeper into her story and have a (virtual) soya latte with this fashion activist.
How and when did you decide to go vegan?
I became vegan completely out of the blue about two and a half years ago. I came home from work one night, drive thru McDoubles and fries in hand, for a late-night dinner – nothing new. By what seems like divine intervention, my boyfriend and I randomly decided to watch Food Inc. on Netflix. It’s not even a vegan film, but that’s all it took for me. I was horrified to actually see where my food came from, and what unnecessary cruelty I was supporting. Needless to say, that was the last time I ever ate McDonald’s, or any meat for that matter. I chose to become vegan that night, and it was the easiest and best decision I’ve ever made! It took me a couple of months to adjust – I am human. Ditching dairy was hard, especially cheese, but discovering all these new, delicious plant-based alternatives and testing recipes made it worth it. I’m still learning new things! Who knew one documentary could change your entire life?
How has veganism influenced your work as a model?
Veganism is not just a diet, it’s a lifestyle. So when my ethics changed, so did my goals, and my role in the fashion industry. While I may not choose all of my jobs just yet, there are certain things I just won’t do. I’ll deny auditions, or even paid work, if it directly goes against my beliefs. While there are sometimes factors I cannot control, my mission is genuine – integrity is important. My job is no longer just about me, it’s about furthering the movement. I’ve decided to turn my career as a model into a platform for activism. I feel compelled to spread the awareness that transformed my life. Society puts models on somewhat of a pedestal – and I believe it’s important to take a stand, be a voice, to advocate for the greater good.
How do you choose the brands you work with?
To be honest, I don’t always have the pleasure of choosing the brands I work with. Modelling is my job, it’s how I pay the bills. So unfortunately, not all of my clients are ethical brands. Now, I would never work for a leather, or fur company, of course – but the abundance of animal products in the industry does make it tough to avoid sometimes. I would love noting more than to only work for conscious companies, with fellow changemakers who share my values for people, animals, and the planet. However, I am grateful to have met and worked with a few local vegan businesses here in LA. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to combine my personal values and my job! It gives my work a sense of purpose and meaning. While these jobs are a dime a dozen, they are the days I live for!
What are some of your most memorable moments when working with ethical fashion?
My best work is when I’m working for a cause I believe in. It ignites this fiery passion within my soul, to be the change I wish to see in the world! I’ve met some fantastic people behind these ethical fashion brands. You can feel the sense of love, compassion, and community in all that they do. Recently, I had fun shoot in Joshua Tree, reppin’ vegan apparel and awareness brand BeetxBeet. I was running through the desert, waving an embossed “In Plants We Trust” flag – it was so liberating, getting the chance to unleash my inner eco warrior! From the beginning, Sica Schmitz, founder of Bead and Reel, has been a light in my life. She has given me many opportunities within the ethical fashion industry, introduced me to many like-minded veganistas, and helped me grow along my journey. Whether it be sustainable e-commerce for her online boutique, or walking in her annual sustainable Fair Trade Fashion Show. She is a modern-day Wonder Woman I aspire to be like, fighting for social and environmental justice!
What have been some obstacles that you have faced and overcome?
Nowadays, I look at my job differently. While essentially, I play dress up and take photos – which I love, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not always all fun for me anymore. Before, I mentioned that there are certain factors I cannot control… and that can be tough. For instance, when I have to get my hair and makeup done – it’s such a bittersweet feeling. On one hand I enjoy it, but on the other hand, I’m cringing inside as these toxic, animal-based products are being sprayed and blended into my skin. Or maybe my only shoe options at work for the day are leather. It’s hard having to compromise on issues that completely oppose my personal life. But I’m learning that I can only help what I can control. So I strike up a conversation about my favorite plant-based products, or my vegan leather shoes. Instead of feeling hypocritical about these challenges I face at work, I’m learning to embrace the journey, and do my part to inspire and spread cruelty-free culture whenever I can!
For more from Rachel, follow her Instagram @itsrachelford and for more A Soya Latte With…interviews, click here.
All photos courtesy of Beet x Beet.