On a rainy April weekend, Doutzen Kroes graced Toronto with her presence. The supermodel was in the city to promote the campaign Knot on My Planet in support of Elephant Crisis Fund, in partnership with Holt Renfrew. Dressed in blue boyfriend jeans, a white T-shirt and an oversized black coat with a Tiffany elephant brooch, Kroes radiated beauty, charm and passion about the cause and her charity work.
Before her appearance at Holt Renfrew’s flagship store, we met to discuss her involvement with the project, her favourite fashion industry memories and her tips for mothers for the upcoming Mother’s Day.
DARINA GRANIK: Can you tell our readers about Knot on My Planet, and why you decided to support it so passionately?
DOUTZEN KROES: We created the campaign with David Bonnouvrier, my agent from DNA models, and his fiancée, Trish Goff. One night in New York over dinner, they were telling me about [how amazing their trip to Kenya was] and that I should go.
I went to Samburu in Northern Kenya in 2016, and I immediately fell in love with the whole vibe there. When we stepped out of the plane, we were greeted by the Samburu [people], who are so amazing. We also met the Douglas-Hamiltons, who run the Elephant Watch Camp—they started Save the Elephants and the Elephant Crisis Fund. When we met the elephants, it was love at first sight! They are such giant creatures, but their emotional connection is similar to humans’. Even my son, who was four years old, sat there watching the elephants for over two hours. For me, it was a sign that they were special.
But, I also learned that more than 30,000 elephants are killed each year, one every 15 minutes. I was shocked that I didn’t know this. My first reaction was: “Oh, I have a great social media platform. This is easy—we just have to tell everyone.” Back in New York, David, Trish and I started brainstorming. We got in touch with [Creative] Blood Agency in London, who created the Knot on My Planet slogan.
Humans have been tying knots for so many years to remember something, and elephants are known for their incredible memory. But, we are forgetting them. Our initial campaign was to tie knots and spread the word that there is an elephant crisis and that we need to do something about it.
What is your favourite part about collaborating with the Elephant Crisis Fund?
Since Save the Elephants and Wildlife Conservation Network created Elephant Crisis Fund together, [there are no overhead costs]—100% of the donations to Elephant Crisis Fund go directly to over 90 organizations in Africa within 24 hours. [I stand behind that], and it is also why I help them raise money.
How did you manage to get Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista to support the project?
My role is to be a Global Ambassador. Because of the platform the fashion industry has given me and all the connections I’ve made over the years, I can reach out to all these influential people, and I’m very grateful to the fashion industry for giving me this platform and all these followers, so I can do things like this.
[Trish reached out to] Linda and Christy, and they called Naomi. The last picture of the “Holy Trinity” was taken in the 1990s, and then they came together again for us! That was incredible! We were in a studio with Patrick Demarchelier. Naomi was the first one to show up—she doesn’t have that reputation. (smiles)
It was an incredible experience to be in a studio with them, and they were telling amazing stories of what it was like in the 1990s. For me, that was the supermodel era, and that has been my inspiration. [Back then], it was a very small group, like a circus travelling around the world. They were one big family, and it is just not like that anymore.
How has the fashion industry changed since you started?
Social media has a huge influence on how the fashion industry works now. I don’t want to always be negative about social media because it is also a tool that we are given, and we can do a lot of good things with it. We are still trying to figure out if it works to use influencers that are not necessarily models. Brands are trying to find their way in the new technology era. Now, women get booked because they have a lot of followers, or are bloggers and vloggers. We are still trying to figure out if that makes a product sell better.
Customers like to purchase things when they know that [the proceeds are] going to a charity. This is why we’ve been very successful with Knot on My Planet. It’s good to raise awareness, but we realized it is not easy to raise money for animal charities. We reached out to luxury brands, like Tiffany’s. They understood early on that customers want to buy luxury items and do good at the same time. They created a whole line called Save the Wild, which will soon be extended to rhinos and lions, which are also endangered. Today, people crave more personality and [want to] change the world for the better.
In the #MeToo and Time’s Up era, how is the fashion industry going to change?
It is already changing a lot. [It’s great what has been happening] after the Boston Globe article. But, it is also very difficult. These iconic photographers that I’ve had amazing relationships with, they are just gone. I’ve never experienced anything really bad, and they took iconic pictures that will never be made again. But, these things are unforgivable, and we need to learn. We should never abuse power.
With hundreds of magazine covers in your portfolio, what is your most memorable photoshoot? And who was the photographer?
It was Steven Meisel for a Vogue Italia cover. I had been working for a year, and the first year was difficult because I didn’t do a lot of high fashion, but most commercial clients wanted to work with me. My agency kept saying “No” to all the [high-paying] commercial work. There were rules that don’t exist anymore—you’d have to work and do a lot of high fashion before you could start working for commercial brands and make a lot of money. You would do a lot of shows, then campaigns, and then editorials.
Those rules just don’t exist anymore because many girls are here for just one season. Or, they go straight from doing nothing to getting a Victoria’s Secret contract. Getting the Vogue cover was my way into high fashion and a long career. That [photoshoot] was so memorable for me! I’ve learned so much shooting [with Steven Meisel, the Godfather of the fashion industry]. Afterwards, I also shot [with him] for the American Vogue and other things, like a Valentino campaign. He had a way of teaching a model how to model. That was a very special time.
Do you miss your days with Victoria’s Secret? What did you enjoy the most about being an Angel?
I look back at the beautiful time that I had. It was very different back then. We were a very tight group of six girls, and we would see each other everywhere. We would have a great time—it was like we were always on vacation. We would travel to St. Barths and spend almost a week there. Sunbathe and shoot, sunbathe and shoot. I don’t think it’s like that now—they don’t even have a swim [line] anymore. I’m lucky to have been in that group with Gisele and Tyra, to be on a runway with real Angels like Adriana and Alessandra!
My favourite part was that it gave me a household name. It opened a lot of doors. I’m very grateful because [it has allowed me to do] what I love doing now, which is to give back and work on something that is very close to my heart.
After starring in Wonder Woman and Justice League, what are your plans for your acting career in Hollywood?
I would love to act more. It’s very difficult to transition from modelling into acting. Wonder Woman was an easy choice for me. I met with Patty Jenkins, the director who did the audition. She said, “You know what, Doutzen, I would really like to put a woman out there that is a feminist, that is strong but caring, beautiful and loving.” It is important for young girls to have a superhero woman, and that’s why I did that movie. Justice League just happened because I had done Wonder Woman.
I would love to do more, but it is difficult because people just typecast you. They see I’m a model, so I am a pretty woman that a husband cheats on his wife with. I’m always [cast as] that person, and I feel that if I do something, I want to do something like Wonder Woman, something with a message. And I’m taking classes—I’m always working on [acting]. So, let’s see what happens. Maybe one day, I’ll get that call. (laughs)
Mother’s Day is around the corner. Motherhood implies very limited time for anything else. What advice would you give to other mothers? Do you have any tips you can share?
Oh yes, no time, I know! That’s why I love my job. When I’m working, I get to be glamorous. It’s a great balance—when I’m a mom, I am just a mom, and I don’t feel like a model when I’m with my kids.
It is important to spend some time on yourself or go out and have dinners with your husband. Or at night, treat yourself and put a mask on. When the kids were young, taking a shower was almost a luxury. My job always forces me to get out, but if you don’t have the opportunity, sometimes you just have to do it. Maybe get a babysitter for an evening and make yourself pretty, put on some makeup. That really helps [you feel better].
What do you enjoy the most about raising your children in your native country, the Netherlands?
That the family is around! That when I cook dinner, my sister calls me and says, “Oh, I’m around the corner, should I join?” These little things are so amazing when you live close to your family; I didn’t have that in New York.
New York is just fast, always, and I’m not built that way. I need my peace and quiet. Europe is a little slower—not in a negative way, just different. And I love visiting New York. To raise kids there was extremely difficult for me because I grew up in the countryside, and when you grow up a certain way, you want the same for your children. So, my husband and I decided to move back to be closer to the family, and that is my favourite part.
But, we love to travel with our kids. Exploring the world together and making memories is the most valuable thing in the world.
You are always so busy—how do you maintain balance and harmony within yourself?
I have a switch in my head that I just turn off. I never get overworked because my body just tells me “That’s it!” I put my phone on flight mode and ignore it. And I can because I have agents—it’s a luxury.
I go to the countryside. I think that is the best way to recharge. Lately, I’ve been meditating a lot. I have all these apps that send me reminders. (laughs) Even if it is two or five minutes, just sit down and reflect. How do I feel? How does my belly feel? Just go into your body and go out of your head: 95% of the time I live in my head, and it’s very important to shut off your thoughts sometimes, especially when you live in a big city. And nature. Nature heals a lot of things!