If you scroll through actress Nikki Reed’s Instagram profile, you will quickly discover that she is a sustainability advocate and activist in many forms. From the food she eats and animals she rescues to the clothes she wears, Reed has been on a journey to become more eco-conscious in all facets of her life.
This mindset is especially true when it comes to waste in fashion — but it’s complicated.
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“As much as I would love to say that the best path forward is one where we all wear hemp and we don’t partake in this industry at all, I think that there’s a space and a place to do things better, especially in a world where people will always want things,” she told FN.
Reed, 32, who is known for her roles in “Twilight” and “Thirteen,” has been a proponent for less is more — even wearing the same two pairs of lace-up boots for the past decade. But she is no stranger to the fashion industry.
Reed launched her own socially conscious lifestyle brand, Bayou With Love, four years ago, where she’s focused on sustainable, ethical fashion production within jewelry, apparel, home and beauty. To create, she taps unexpected sources: For instance, her jewelry is crafted with recycled gold recovered from discarded technology through a partnership with Dell.
Reed, who currently doesn’t take a salary for the brand, confessed that this is a passion project that’s far from conventional. “It’s so counterintuitive for a business model to say, ‘I have a brand, but I’m also going to tell you not to buy a bunch of things.’ I’m not driven by astronomical growth. I feel like I can stay true to my moral compass and my integrity because that’s why I show up at work every day. It’s the mission of the company. It’s not the profits. I’m here to say, ‘buy one piece that lasts a lifetime.'”
Now, she’s taking that ethos to the shoe industry via collaboration with vegan footwear label Loci.
Launching today, their sustainable shoe collection consists of four sneaker styles made in Portugal, using 100% recycled ocean plastics, cork insoles, natural rubber outsoles and eyelets sourced from recycled brass. The colorways follow a neutral palette to remain versatile.
“We have to get down to every single part of this shoe. And yes, we’re producing new, but by pulling things out of landfills or out of the ocean, you’re actually saving the consumer from purchasing a brand-new product that’s in the marketplace,” she said.
Though for Reed, finding brand partnerships is not a simple task. With 3.4 million followers, the entrepreneur is a prime target for free gifts and #collab asks, but Reed has a rule when it comes to product: She doesn’t accept free gifts and she personally vets companies herself if she does indeed want to work together in any capacity.
“I’m not here to sell other people’s products and cater to this consumer-driven seasonal trends, more is more, faster sales, kind of space. I do a lot of my own independent research on female-founded, sustainable, local, ethical-conscious brands. And I’m a customer,” she said. “I don’t have any interest at this point in simply putting my name on something. I’m so creatively fueled from my own company and comfortable with what I can bring to the table in terms of design, but also by being the creative director and understanding supply chains and knowing the questions to ask.”
With Loci, however, Reed was able to ask those complicated questions, such as the origins of the plastic and the production quantities for the shoes. And the answers, she said, aligned with her personal values.
For critics wondering why sustainably-minded Reed would then proceed to launch more product, her answer is to lead by example.
“It’s interesting to see somebody who is launching a shoe collection also post about how I’ve worn the same pair of shoes for 10 years. But there’s a space where we can create a path to showing what our values are by example and then offering ways for people to do better, ” she explained. “So that is the very truth of who I am — I have two pairs of shoes that I wear day in and day out in. Those shoes have made it onto red carpets, in airports, to the barn. I’m wiping them down and then wearing them the next day for press with my favorite pair of vintage jeans. And simultaneously, the truth is I’m launching a shoe collection that I am very proud of, and those shoes will live with me forever.”
While Reed may be a leader in the sustainability space now, she’s quick to admit she wasn’t always this eco-friendly. Growing up in Los Angeles with a single mother, “going green” per se was not something taught in her household. In fact, she willingly confesses that she ate fast food and threw it out her car window, smoked cigarettes and left butts on the ground.
“I’m just on a journey, but one where I’ve grown and I’ve seen the world through a different set of eyes. When you know better, you do better,” she said. “That’s our responsibility. That’s our moral contract, if you will, with the Earth and with each other. I try to lean into my change to create a safe space for anybody who feels like they might be judged for trying something new.”