Supermodel Kenza Fourati is also supermama to two-year-old Dora and four-week-old Idris, and is taking time out from caring for a colicky newborn and running a fashion business to share her ideas about sustainable living with Grazia to prove it.
Although having children has made her seek to consume with more responsibility and accountability, recounting her rural childhood in Tunisia, Kenza has always been acutely aware of the impact we have on our environment. “Growing up between the suburbs of Tunis and on our family farm in the Cap Bon, an hour away from the capital, we were exposed to the effects of climate change early on, although sustainability was a very foreign concept back then. Drought and, therefore, often desertification, has always been part of the conversation and chronic worries, and it definitely shaped my perspective a lot,” she admits.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, when it comes to drought and desertification, Dora and Idris will have no such worries. “In New York, there are all walks of life, all cultures, and families,” Kenza smiles. “Humanity is truly the common denominator which I love. Although I grew up in a small town in Tunisia, I do hope though to instil in my children the same, sense of tolerance and openness my parents did with us – this sense of hospitality and warmth which is so typically Middle Eastern.”
However, it also remains a priority that her children are conscious of climate change. “I make sure to teach Dora, at two years old, to be mindful of wasting water when she brushes her teeth, for example. I believe you can foster empathy very early on in life as well as a sense of confidence in self and the world around you.”
Kenza continues, “Today, sustainability is not only a cool concept reserved for a certain elite but a necessity for our children and the next generations.” Revealing what we can today to live more sustainably, she lists: “Consume less meat; avoid single-use plastic – get a refillable water bottle instead of buying plastic bottles; get involved in your community and support local farmers by buying seasonal products. It’s also a great way to teach our children seasons through vegetables and fruits.”Limiting packaging is also a priority for Kenza. She explains, “I have become increasingly aware of packaging waste. Once a compulsive consumer of Amazon for example, especially as a new mum, I now avoid ordering online, except from like-minded companies who are aware of their waste imprint.”
Cruelty is another concern. She explains, “I won’t buy any cosmetic or household products that aren’t cruelty-free, and more than anything I always try to research companies’ values and policies. With all the resources out there, there is no excuse for not educating ourselves on brands or companies we love, especially where there is human-rights violation. So naturally, I tend today to consume less, but put more soul, love and research into what I consume.”
So what’s the way forward? “I now favour smaller companies that are more transparent and allow traceability in their supply chain; companies that also do good for their community,” she states. “I totally believe we are the generation of social entrepreneurship.”
It’s Kenza’s certainty that we can do all better that led to the launch of OSAY – which stands for Our Stories Are Yours – the sustainable e-commerce fashion platform which she runs with her American-Argentinian entrepreneur business partner Simone Carrica, who she’s known since school. “Our products are handmade and ethically sourced, made with soul, skill and love. We try to connect worlds, buyers and artisans through beautiful pieces revisited, through shared humanities, through storytelling, through heritage preserved,” she elaborates. This comes to life in the form of an artful curation of traditional babouche slippers handmade from by-products by artisans in the Medina in Tunis, jewellery made by single mothers in Tunisia, and reclaimed wood fashioned into premium sunglasses, many of which are modelled by Kenza herself.
However, the model-turned-activist is keen to point out that her beliefs aren’t founded on a misty-eyed nostalgia for the simplicity of her childhood in Tunisia. “I don’t want to go back to a simpler life per se, but rather more awareness and a more empathic way of living,” she insists.
“Honestly, as a parent and as a person, I wish to do and learn more. Those are small steps but if we, as a society, start with some of these actions in our everyday lives, it will make a big difference.”
• Visit osaythelabel.com
Photos: Courtesy of Kenza Fourati