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Model and activist Winnie Harlow is constantly traveling for her job, but sometimes, her travels leave a particularly lasting impression. After visiting Kenya last summer with Me to We, a socially conscious brand from Harlow’s native Canada, she left inspired by what the country’s talented artisans were creating — and struck by the lack of basic resources they had.
Harlow’s now the face of Me to We’s first semiprecious jewelry collection, a range of beaded wrap bracelets and necklaces which, like all of the company’s wares, are handmade by women in Kenya who are paid a fair wage for their work. I sat down with Harlow to discuss the project, her relationship with jewelry, and the reason why, despite her job, she loathes trying on clothes.
Tell me what drew you to Me to We, and to this collection of jewelry specifically.
It started with me going to Kenya and really experiencing the process [of how this jewelry is made] for myself. What makes it so important to me, personally, is the reminder of what each piece means; the reminder that we have things like [food and clean water] so readily available, and we just take them for granted. Everyone, everywhere should have those things, too, and we’re working toward making that happen.
When it comes to jewelry in general, what sort of pieces do you gravitate toward?
I like gold! And when I’m looking for jewelry, I’m looking for something timeless. Something I’ll be able to wear forever and then pass down.
What’s your favorite piece of jewelry you own?
So I’m a Leo, and I have this lion ring... I believe it was a Christmas gift from a friend. It’s [shaped like] the head of a lion, and it’s got diamonds for eyes and a diamond in the mouth.
Fancy! Okay, on the other end of the spectrum, what’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten on something?
I have this leather duffle bag — I hate carrying it, since it’s so heavy and not the most practical, but I absolutely love it. I was in New York for Fashion Week, and it was a really cold day, so my friends and I ran into this really cool store, just for warmth. I saw the bag in the window, asked about it, and wound up getting it for, like, 70 percent off.
What’s your biggest shopping pet peeve?
I hate trying on clothes; I literally cannot stand the changing rooms. It takes so much time, and it’s so tedious!
So I take it you do most of your shopping online, then?
I really do. And if a site has overnight shipping, even better. Because that’s the only downside of online shopping: It feels like you didn’t really get anything afterwards. [When I buy something,] I want to wear it immediately!
Tell me about your favorite beauty product.
Smith’s Rosebud Salve is amazing, and the best all-around product. You can use it on your cuticles, your lips, your hands. I have to have it with me at all times.
Finally, who will you take fashion criticism from?
My best friend or my mom — who often doesn’t get a lot of the things I wear. I’ll take criticism from them both, because I really trust them. But that doesn’t mean I’ll agree with them or take their advice!