'WE MUST GET RID OF PLASTIC ENTIRELY'
When Anja Rubik was asked to be the face of La Bouche Rouge – a position that included the development of lipstick colours of her own – her initial response was: ‘Such fantastic lipsticks!’ The Polish top model soon realized that the sustainable nature of La Bouche Rouge fits perfectly with her work as ambassador for Parley, an environmental organization that removes plastic from the ocean and recycles it in collaboration with brands. ‘The most fascinating thing about La Bouche Rouge is that the product is almost free of plastic. That in itself is exceptional in an industry that creates so much waste. We must get rid of plastic entirely.’
Now 34, Anja Rubik is a star in Poland, where she’s also known as an activist. Shortly before this interview, she introduced a short film about sex education. She laughs: ‘It’s a bit weird to say this about myself, but in Poland I’m influential.’ Rubik has her own television show and uses her popularity to support diverse causes. ‘I see it as a responsibility and a duty. I’m privileged to be able to do it.’
Rubik lives in New York these days, but she’s often in Warsaw, where she stays with family and friends. Constantly busy with fashion, art and environmental issues, she doesn’t do a lot of socializing. Rubik’s sense of commitment was shaped by her upbringing. ‘I grew up that way. When you can do something, why wouldn’t you? It comes naturally to me. I wouldn’t be able to function any other way. You know, by collaborating on projects I change, too. I grow as well, and I get a kick out of that.’
Collaborating with various people stimulates her. ‘Three thoughts are better than one. These days it’s all about working together. You see it in many areas. In the case of Parley, it’s a group of people from different disciplines who look for solutions from the perspective of their specialties, like artists who can think outside the box. The millennium generation gets what’s happening. I notice that they appreciate knowledge and experience more than a pretty product. They want to do something in a positive way.’
If you want to get rid of plastic entirely, there’s a lot of work to be done.
‘Buying something in Poland that’s not wrapped in plastic is a mission impossible. We must pressure manufacturers to find alternatives. Refuse the plastic lid at Starbucks. Tell them to use paper lids. As a consumer, your choices are limited, but we’re headed in the right direction. Recently, almost 200 countries signed a UN resolution promising to reduce plastic in the oceans. Awareness is growing, but it’s not enough. This is about finding solutions for the use of plastic – right now. Halting the production of plastic should be our top priority. Plastic is a design failure that ought to be evident to everyone. Plastic doesn’t decompose.’
What makes you want to support a new project?
‘I like coming across something I can learn from. That’s what fascinates me about charities.’
La Bouche Rouge is eco-friendly and beautiful.
‘It’s important for sustainable products to look good. Something that’s good for the environment doesn’t have to be ugly, does it? Luckily, there are more and more environmentally friendly products that are both sustainable and pretty. The consumer, too, demands a beautiful and appealing design. How hard can it be? Keep it simple and keep the cost down.’
Do you use organic beauty brands?
‘Not everything on the market is organic, but I do my best. For skincare I use oil by REN and products by Biologique Recherche, despite the plastic packaging. The organic makeup I use is RMS Beauty. I’m hoping for more pressure on beauty brands to launch organic products. Coincidentally, last year I had a skin issue for the first time in my career of almost 20 years. It was probably a kind of acne that luckily just disappeared. Since then, I’ve been more careful about what I put on my face.
Do you talk about this with makeup artists?
‘It isn’t really a point of discussion, and that’s a problem. Many makeup artists are attached to a brand and can’t speak freely. Even as a model, you’re restricted in what you say.’
At La Bouche Rouge’s invitation, you came up with a couple of lipstick shades, namely Rouge Anja and Nude Anja. How did that come about?
‘My intention was a deep, cold red, but it’s hard to describe a colour in words. I mixed up something myself, besides showing the researchers my favourite red dress, designed by Anthony Vaccarello for Saint Laurent. Nude Anja has a beautiful texture. You can barely see it, but it gives the lips a good shape. It’s a shade that’s handy for daytime wear, because it’s quick and easy to apply.’
What do you think of having customers order personal colours via the La Bouche Rouge app?
‘It’s good to empower customers – and super fun! More and more people are asking for personalized products now that globalization has given us so many mass-produced items. You want something you can identify with, and you don’t necessarily want to follow a trend. When it’s about cosmetics and colour, it’s got to be about originality.’
Originality is what led you to launch your own perfume four years ago . . .
‘Yes, it’s called Original by Anja Rubik. Throughout my career, I’ve been part of promotional campaigns for new perfumes, occasionally embodying the vision of a brand. This time I chose my own path and stopped being a follower – an important aspect that I want to demonstrate with Original. A lot of girls, not only in Poland, are followers. Understandably so, because it’s hard in this mass age to find your true self, not to mention forming a strong personal opinion. Social media is full of opinions about what’s cool and what you should wear and buy. My goal was a perfume with underlying notes of meaning and individuality. You can see my fragrance as a manifesto, as a way to connect with my thoughts. Wearing it will give you a boost of confidence.’
How do you reach people with your message?
‘Sixteen years ago I launched 25, a magazine that was a result of my research into sensuality, sexuality and fashion – things that had a lot to do with my work as a model. I loved doing it, inspiring people to see things differently. Today I see my Instagram account as a kind of magazine for offering my opinions. Do they make an impact? Yes, because when I connect to societal issues like sex education, people walk up to me on the street. That’s why it’s important to keep standing up for what I believe. If I were to stop, people would soon forget about me, a logical consequence in a world with so much distraction. It’s not easy these days to draw attention online. I put a lot of energy into my projects. I do what I can, but I expect nothing in return.’