Lonneke Engel is a genuine supermodel. For almost two decades the impressively versatile Dutch beauty has worked with the world’s leading photographers and designers. She’s represented everyone from Covergirl to Ralph Lauren and Chanel, since walking hand in hand with Kate Moss in her first fashion show aged 14. Then in 2008 she became a certified health counsellor, and in the same year launched her own web-based company, Organice Your Life®, that aims to make the world a better, healthier place to be. And if that wasn’t enough, she is involved with a range of charities, which includes ACE New York, that works with the homeless, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Engel has emerged too as the sustainability-promoting Ambassador of The Green Fashion Competition. An initiative of Amsterdam International Fashion Week (AIFW) and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, the competition’s objective is to embrace and inspire a more sustainable global fashion industry. It targets young entrepreneurs, recent graduates and those looking to invigorate existing companies. Competition winners are awarded the tools – cash prizes, workshops, coaching, exposure and connection to the impressive AIFW network – necessary to launch their own environmentally conscious fashion business.
Engel opened 2011’s competition, in its second year, against the background of an awesome multimedia setting and is part of the professional jury that judges every submission. She also appeared as the face of the competition, after modelling pioneering ‘green fashion’ garments in a series of photographs by Jouke Bos. The shots have been used to publicise The Green Fashion Competition around the globe. Not someone who’d just settle for being a stunning face, Engel would much rather be working wholeheartedly to promote a healthy, sustainable future in the most original way she knows how.
Sublime: Tell us a little about your modelling background.
Lonneke Engel: I started modelling when I was 12 years old. My first shoot internationally was with Bruce Weber, for Abercrombie & Fitch. He introduced me to Ralph Lauren, who has been using me in shoots me for over 15 years now, including a six-year exclusive contract. That’s the campaign most people would recognise me from.
S: What do you love most about your career?
LE: I love the travelling, being independent; I love feeling in charge when I fly across the world for work by myself. And meeting so many incredible people. It is such an empowering job, if you don’t mind being alone at times.
S: What inspired you to become a Certified Health Counsellor?
LE: In modelling, you learn how to take care of your body and your mind. You have to. A lot of young girls were coming to me who had issues with food, asking me for advice. I decided I had to learn more about it all before I could give them any tips. I went to the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, in New York, with people from all over the world who had the same mindset. It was very impressive, and an eye-opener for me. I realised that the best thing in the world was finding healthy ways to live my life.
S: What is the main goal of Organice Your Life®?
LE: Organice Your Life® uses the power of the celebrities you see in magazines, on TV and on the big screen to inspire people to live the healthiest, happiest and greenest possible life they can. I like to give positive news, tips and facts. I want everyone to know that each day is a day to start something new, that every little thing counts, no matter how small, towards our goal.
S: How has your experience as a model helped you to develop this particular platform?
LE: I’ve experienced so many amazing things on my travels for work, and I wanted to share them. I started Organice Your Life® by myself. Then more and more models and celebrities got interested, and joined me. I know a lot of people through my work, and many of them are really interesting, knowledgeable, inspiring individuals.Now they have a voice, writing articles for Organice Your Life®!
S: What drew you to The Green Fashion Competition?
LE: I was asked to be Ambassador, as they knew that I was spending my free time working to inspire people to live an ‘organiced’ life (a word I made up from the words ‘organic’, ‘nice’ and ‘organised’). I have been a model for over 18 years, and I am obsessed with vintage and sustainable clothing, so it was going to be a great fit!
S: Tell us a bit about your role as Ambassador with The Green Fashion Competition.
LE: I am involved every step of the way: at the beginning of the competition, to judging the submissions and presenting at the finale, at Amsterdam Fashion Week. I love it. It is important that we make the fashion industry sustainable. It is an industry that is highly polluting, and as a consumer industry, with a new collection every three months, the pollution effects have only increased. Wages for the people who make the clothes have gone down.
There are many areas where we can improve things. Everybody watches fashion; it is a powerful thing. Fashion can move people to look at other parts of their lives they might want to make more green.
S: How important are events like The Green Fashion Competition in the fashion world?
LE: It’s good to encourage young designers with competitions like this, where they can win a lot of money and have their own show at Amsterdam Fashion Week. Because the prizes are attractive, designers who maybe weren’t interested in producing their designs in a sustainable way are pushed to think twice about their production methods.
S: How do you feel about green fashion? Do you think there is a growing acceptance of green, or eco fashion?
LE: There didn’t use to be much choice, and green fashion was just not cool. Nowadays, big designers and fashion houses actually focus on being green; sustainable fashion has arrived. I love vintage clothing, too. Vintage is the original green fashion, and has been embraced by fashionistas. People are becoming more aware about what they consume. They want to know exactly what they are buying before purchasing or using it. Perhaps they’ll want to reuse or recycle it. I think that sustainability is a trend that is really about going back to basics: you know what you’re wearing, eating, playing with, who you’re working for. You’re being conscious about your life and the way you live it.