The Project Runway All Stars model is bringing environmental
sustainability from her farm to the fashion industry.
by Allan Richter
Growing up in a rural community outside Kansas City, Missouri, Angela Lindvall spent her days playing in soybean fields and catching insects. Her immersion in nature started early—she was born at home and fed only whole foods. Money was scarce, but local fishing trips and beach excursions, where Angela and her sisters would while away the days watching crabs dig in the sand, made for meaningful vacations. “I grew up in nature,” Lindvall recalls.
So it was culture shock when Lindvall later moved to New York City to pursue her modeling career. “I started to educate myself and become aware of what was happening in the world,” says Lindvall, 33. “It started with food. I would look at ingredients on the back of packages and wondered, ‘What is Red 40?’ and ‘What is Blue 20?’ I just started researching and looking at the agriculture industry and at our water supply. I was shocked. I was so naïve growing up in a little utopia thinking, ‘What a beautiful world.’ I realized there’s a lot going on. I remember asking my friends in a panic, ‘Why isn’t this on the front page of the newspaper? This is serious.’”
Lindvall wasted no time. She founded The Collage Foundation, a non-profit that promotes environmental awareness and supports local farmers and other eco-friendly projects. In 2007, she co-hosted “Alter Ecco,” one of the Discovery Planet Green channel’s first shows. That same year, during New York City’s Fashion Week, she hosted “Be Eco Chic,” one of the first major green fashion shows. Two years later, she became one of the founding board members of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s “Clean By Design” initiative to promote greener practices in the textile industry.
Making the transition from the runway to the silver screen, Lindvall starred in Roman Coppola’s “CQ,” now a cult classic, with Gerard Depardieu and Jeremy Davies. Putting her career on hold twice for maternity leave, she has appeared in “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” with Robert Downey Jr., the Sofia Coppola drama “Somewhere,” and is in two films in post-production, the Roman Coppola-helmed comedy “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” and the family western “Wild Hearts,” directed by Ricky Schroder. She just auditioned for Martin Scorsese’s upcoming crime drama “The Wolf of Wall Street.” On the small screen, she appeared in “Hawaii Five-0” and this year hosted “Project Runway All Stars,” a spin-off of the popular fashion reality show.
Munching on cherries, Lindvall spoke with us from her seven-acre farm outside Los Angeles.
Energy Times: Tell me about how you got involved as an environmental activist in your industry.
Angela Lindvall: Working in the fashion industry, I realized how little people knew. People knew about the new Louis Vuitton handbag and they know about Britney Spears, but they sure didn’t know about water pollution, and that seems a bit absurd. That’s really when I took action. We’ve done some fundraising, and I’m on the founding board of the NRDC’s Clean By Design, which is really focused on the textile industry. Textile manufacturing is the No. 2 polluter in Asia. It’s really bad, but just by improving the standards of these kinds of caveman-like manufacturing facilities, we can reduce pollution anywhere between 10% and 40% in some sectors. It saves the manufacturer money, so it’s a win-win for everybody. It’s been a bit of slow, snail-moving process, which I found a lot of paradigm shifts are.
Part of the problem in textiles is the inefficiency of the way that they’re using energy and water. The dyeing process is probably the largest part of it. But a lot of it is just the standards at which these manufacturing facilities are running. They’re wasting a lot of energy because they’re not up to par.
So by improving the facilities and creating insulation and looking at energy use and conserving the water in the dyeing process, it really reduces the pollution a lot. Now of course there are many other techniques with vegetable dyes and with sustainable fibers. That’s a whole other aspect.
ET: Tell me about the line of dresses you’re looking into creating.
AL: So often women are disconnected from that God-given gift of our nurturing maternal femininity. The whole feminine movement happened, and we kind of became a part of the man’s world, and it was a great movement, I’m not against it, but we’ve taken on a lot. No matter how much or how little money you make, what we all have in common is figuring out how to juggle it all, between having a career, having children, having a home and trying to be healthy and still look good.
I’d love to make dresses that inspire women back into their femininity and that are based on different body types, because my industry is so obsessed with youth and being thin, and we’re all so different.
I’d really like to empower and inspire women to embrace and love themselves and know that their true beauty comes from within. I want to create dresses that will enhance what you have, whether you are short and curvy or tall and thin or short and thin or tall and curvy. So I’d like to create a line of dresses that use sustainable fibers. Through Clean by Design or through the profits from my line, hopefully we can find a way to donate to improve the standards to bring those things full circle.
ET: Do you think there will be broad demand for eco-friendly clothing?
AL: It certainly has grown. Organic food became huge, so maybe it will catch on. There is a price difference because of the process, but I don’t think it has to be a huge difference. The whole idea of consuming needs to be rethought by consumers, so they can think about what they’re investing in and what they actually need, because we over-consume. But then they have to look at how long it’s going to last. Instead of buying a lot of things over five years, buy one thing that’s going to last a long time. I want to create these layers of dresses and really timeless pieces [that can be fashioned into a new look each time it is worn], because fashion is so trendy. I want to create something that a woman knows she can wear for a very long time.
ET: What do you grow on your farm?
AL: We are growing herbs and vegetables. I planted a bunch of fruit trees. I have a vision for a hill on the other side of the property to grow some grapes, maybe make wine. I’ve got a compost pile.
We’ve got chamomile, oregano, thyme, lemon balm, lemon verbena, mint, fennel, rosemary. We’ve got at least 20 different types of fruit trees: avocadoes, oranges, lemons, pineapple, guava, pomegranates, apricots, plums, lots of good stuff. With veggies we’ve got kale, chard, lettuces, peppers, tomatoes, radishes. I’m looking to be self-sufficient. My next step is to get chickens. A local farmer here has a biodynamic farm where I get all my eggs and other produce.
I love this idea of little small farms in kind of a co-op, and everybody bringing what they have grown to a local co-op where the community can get their produce. We have an organization called Topanga 7.0, where we’re talking about how we can make this community more sustainable, from energy to agriculture. Honey is another thing I want to get going. I want to get honey bees.
ET: With all that homegrown and local produce, your diet must be terrific.
AL: I eat a lot of live local organic vegetables. A lot of greens. I juice kale, celery, chard, and cucumber, apple and lemon. That’s so good for us. It makes our bodies more alkaline. A lot of health issues come from being too acidic. Acidic foods would be lots of meats and sugars, alcohol, just more refined foods. So the more live raw vegetables we could put in our diet, the more alkaline we become.
Apparently disease can’t exist in an alkaline environment. Not only that, but it really supports our digestive system and allows things to move out. As much as we’re putting good things in our body, we want to make sure things are being eliminated as well. So I’ll do a seasonal detox cleanse where I’m just doing vegetables and juices and fruits. I go in an infrared sauna and sweat. Sweating and getting exercise is really important. I eat whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, millet and bulgur. Maybe 20% of my diet, I’ll eat some meat. But 80% of it is vegetarian.
I really try to eat pretty pure. I also don’t believe in being too extreme, because I have two kids. If I don’t allow them to have certain things then they’re going to become extremist the other way. There’s also food for the soul, like home-baked chocolate chip cookies. I definitely believe in enjoying things, but if you balance it out by cleansing and putting good things in your body then you can handle it.
I also take curcumin [found in turmeric]. It’s an anti-inflammatory herb that cleanses your blood. It helps your cells. A lot of Indian food is made with it. I take enzymes, which help your food digest. I take omega-3 fish oil. I’ll occasionally take magnesium. Primarily those are the things I take. I also make smoothies in the morning, where I get this big scoop of a green powder with everything in it: greens, vitamins, probiotics and antioxidants. You put a scoop of that in with some coconut juice and some frozen berries. I put a protein powder in there as well.
ET: What’s your fitness regimen like?
AL: I’m obsessed in the last couple of years with Kundalini yoga. It’s an ancient yoga. You’re using the very powerful energy at the base of your spine and you’re bringing it up through all your different chakras up into your crown chakra [at the top of the head]. You’re actually secreting through your pineal gland, you’re stimulating your central nervous system.
It has changed my life. I haven’t done it in two days and I feel like I am going a little crazy. It centers me so much that I’m able to handle stressful situations. It gives me so much more energy. It keeps me calm and peaceful. I love it so much that I signed up for teacher training, and I’m graduating this Sunday. Even if I only get in an 11-minute meditation, I do it just to center me. If I did the whole regimen, it takes about an hour and a half.
I also do Pilates about once or twice a week. Then I do Tai Kwan Do, which I love. But my class is at 8:30 at night, so it depends if someone is here to stay with the kids. I just love it but it’s not easy for me to get there. I also love swimming and hiking.
ET: How does your philosophy about natural living translate to your style of parenting your two boys, Dakota, 10, and Sebastian, 7?
AL: My children go to the Rudolf Steiner school. They really believe in the development of the child from the time it’s in the womb through the different phases that the child moves through life, to really support them in activities in which they participate. Cutting vegetables and grinding grains and helping you sweep, and really being involved in activities to help develop the left and right brain before they get into academics.
They read a lot of ancient archetypal fairy tales to develop their imagination. They don’t believe in watching “The Little Mermaid” Disney movie, but reading them “The Little Mermaid” story so they can imagine it on their own. So it’s really not letting them do a lot of media. I’m not an extremist. I do let my kids watch a little bit. I regulate what it is, and it’s only on the weekends. I believe in children having a connection to nature and being healthy in connecting to the spirit of life, having respect and manners, participating in the daily chores of home, and sitting down to a meal together.
Create that inner connection with nature so you feel a part of it. There are so many demands of us and so much advertising in our face that it really disconnects us from our core being. Getting back in touch with that and finding that quiet space of meditation or whatever it is that works for you is crucial for being a more peaceful human being. By being more peaceful, you’re more peaceful with other human beings, being kind and helping people out. Social, political and environmental things coincide with one another, and just reconnecting with ourselves, our family, our community, makes such a big impact not just on an environmental level but on how we feel and how we live.