Daisy Lowe, Model & Activist
Reading Time: 5 min
Social Impact: Ambassador for children’s charity Our Time, the face that reshaped the fashion industry as we know it, today.
In an online world riddled with paid-posts, sponsors and #ad - the seemingly ubiquitous hashtag - when a famous face forms a genuine connection with an up-and-coming brand or a personal affinity with its message, this connection makes for something incredibly rare and special.
Enter industry juggernaut and social justice advocate Daisy Lowe; who, after raising awareness of the socially sustainable message behind Paradise Row’s CORE Collection, the brand was never the same again. Lowe’s granddad practised the East London boxing tradition that our Boxer Bag celebrates, so it was soon apparent that a love for social good was held closely to both of our hearts.
So, when we had the opportunity to visit Lowe’s house for #ParadiseRowCurates, we were excited to meet with a woman truly passionate about the mark that she has make on the world. One thing we couldn’t get enough of upon meeting, was how her worldly consciousness was combined with a characteristic and unapologetic wackiness:
“You’re going to think I’m mad,” Daisy says, giving us ample notice, “I spoke to this amazing psychic healer this morning, to ask if I’d get my kitchen done soon, and she said yes: I fucking knew it!”
It’s not the first (and not the last) curve-ball she fires at the Paradise row team as we explore her house. We’re in Primrose Hill, not an area known for off-the-cuff culture; white townhouses line its streets like a military cemetery, streets that are bare this time of day, save a well-mannered pedestrian or an equally docile pet.
And yet when we traverse the narrow staircase of Daisy Lowe’s home, the scene is transformed into a pink, white and black funhouse (complete a slightly more mad-cap dog). Neon signs from East London adorn Victorian gothic wallpaper, and each surface in her curio-shop-turned-home is covered in trinkets and ornaments.
“I moved here in January and it was crazy how much crap I’d unpacked,” she says after flicking the mechanical chest of a porcelain Victorian woman, “Water, anyone?”
There’s a clear focus on memories rather than ‘things’ and it’s a theme we keep returning to throughout our visit. She admires our photographer’s Mamiya during our shoot and I ask if she’s ever enjoyed being behind the camera amongst a life in front of it:
“I used to photograph, and used to love it. My favourite was my Polaroids. You get that moment captured and there’s nothing you can do to it,” she tells us between movements, “I love capturing life and its moments. It’s always something I’ve done privately, I love keeping my Polaroids in albums. But I have piles I haven’t stuck down yet.”
And it doesn’t stop with the love of analogue photography; Lowe is someone who’s always stood out to the general public as someone who does everything in her life her own way. From modelling, to TV appearances, to workload; it’s something I feel immediately stupid to question when I ask if her move into other pursuits has been met with industry scorn:
“Yeah, the thing about me is that I don’t really give a shit about what other people think.” she says, “I’ve always been a bit of an oddball in the industry. I did it as soon as I left school and know like I didn’t want to conform, so when I did weird off the wall stuff, people would know already that I’m different.”
It’s the reason that so many women, including ourselves, hold her message close to their own hearts; in an industry where the heroin chic was lauded until the early 00s, Lowe gave a much-awaited voice to the normal woman, the average body, and it’s a spotlight she never shied away from. But sitting down with her and opening up about her newest venture into charity work, she reveals it’s a spotlight that has taken its toll on her in the past.
“I took a year out because of mental health issues”, she confides, “it’s why I’ve been modelling less and less. I loved my time on Strictly [Come Dancing], but afterwards work just went absolutely mad. I worked myself into a hole, I wouldn’t finish until 10 or 2-3 in the morning. I was moody, mental, talking too fast, really freaking people out. I was working so hard but you can only burn that bright for so long.”
The mental health conversation is finally opening up the general public, a conversation Lowe insists is needed to help those suffering to speak out about it.
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have or has had issues with their mental health. I’m still working everyday of the week, but it’s much more grounding stuff, much more consulting. It’s much more behind the scenes.”
We can’t help but feel, perhaps, that this current conversation about mental health could have helped her when she was at her busiest.
“I just went under, I couldn't talk, speak, didn’t want to go out. I had to be signed off work.”
We tell her we’re sorry to hear the fact, but she shakes her head and smiles;
“I’m really grateful for that breakdown: it changed my perspective about everything. It happens to a lot of women around twenty-seven to thirty because of their Saturn return; apparently it means you become a product of yourself rather than a product of your environment.”
Escaping the fate of becoming the product of a traumatic environment is exactly the message that Our Time, the charity she is currently ambassador for, promotes. When asked about it, her eye lights out and there’s an air of urgent but passionate electricity:
“This charity are smashing it, one Wednesday of every month in seventeen locations around the country, they do community based workshops for people with bad mental health and their families. It’s about letting your guard down, you go through a talking workshop, they draw how they feel and the children devise a play about what they’re experiencing.
I know personally the first thing to go when I'm going through a rough mental health patch is I’ll just isolate myself; so opening up for them is incredibly special. The charity also forms a network they can use for support. It’s difficult for the parents but these kids have essentially become carers.” She opens her iPhone and hits us with the cold facts: “3.7 million young people either live with or care for people with mental health. Isn’t that awful?”
It’s a completely different world to the one she has been living for the past decade, but it’s one that’s been part of a natural progression, and a part of who she’s always been:
“The fashion industry was only one part of my journey. I’m thirty now; for me, it’s all about being more aware of what’s going on in the world, the planet and the people who live in it.
I’ve always been very socially conscious anyway, but I think it’s a very different thing when you actually want to take action: I eventually want to become a part of Our Time, I want to work more closely with the kids, becoming the extra pair of ears that will listen.”
We remark on another message that has its roots spread throughout her career: giving a voice to those who feel sidelined or marginalised. When Lowe started modelling in the early 2000s, there simply weren’t any other bodies like hers on the runway, and many women - us included - loved her for it. For her, it wasn’t the result of any kind of negotiation:
“I just refused point blank [to lose weight], mainly because I fucking love food, but also to encourage young girls to be themselves and not have to conform to an archetype. That ‘heroin chic’ wasn’t sexy, it didn’t match with the joy of living. If you’re starving yourself, you’re moody as hell, you’re pissed off, you’re not enjoying life, your brain isn’t functioning properly.
We need food, it’s fuel.
I feel I’m caught in the middle, historically they [the industry] focus on young fertile women, but I think that that landscape is changing, there’s more diversity now in between that gap between stick thin and plus sized models, which should be bridged in a massive way. The average size is a 12-14, where the fuck do I fit in? ”
In an industry renowned for eating disorders, draconian diet regimes and the male gaze, Daisy continues to be a breath of fresh air for the fashion world, whose legacy lives on in a more inclusive industry.
“Being thirty, I model less and less so it’s not really my flag to hold anymore, but there’s definitely lots of mental health issues in the modelling industry. It’s probably more concentrated because people are starving, but I think there’s these kinds of issues everywhere.”
We’re both in accord in the belief that this is brought about by the patriarchal society we live in, one that panders to every whim of the men who have had their turn in underestimating Lowe, instances she recounts with hilarity as we wrap up the shoot.
One thing that extends throughout our time with Daisy, though, is her overwhelming sense of hope; hope that the face of our society has, can and will change, and it’s undoubtedly people like her who instigate the social change that brings hope for the voiceless. When we ask her about what’s coming for her and the rest of the people she’s inspired, she leans forward for a moment, as if to tell us a secret. The complete conviction in her eyes is unmistakable and excited for everything the future holds for us:
“I think we’re moving into a time where society becomes matriarchal. The conversation It’s definitely our turn.”