In conversation with Heide Morris
It seems like you have had an amazing personal/professional journey—from modelling, to your social ventures, and now back to school. Could you tell us about it?
I definitely have not wound up on a traditional path, which is challenging at times, but overall I’m super grateful for it. I began modeling at the age of 13 in South Florida and wound up in NYC at the age of 19 in order to attend Lee Strasberg’s acting school. I quickly learned that I am not built for acting and, thankfully, met my agent Conor right around the same time. He had just started Muse Models at the time and we hit it off right away, so I set my sights back on modeling and it has been an amazing career (albeit with ups and downs!) ever since.
I became interested in ethical fashion through a series of events that began to teach me what a powerful role fashion can play in creating an impact – both positive and negative. I learned about the negative impact first when I watched The True Cost by (wonderful human) Andrew Morgan and began to learn about the positive impact when I traveled to Haiti and met the incredible team from deux mains. When I began to see first-hand the incredible impact that ethical fashion can have on bringing people up out of poverty, supporting craftmanship, and overall promoting a more sustainable and ethical way of living, I decided to bring awareness to some of my favorite brands in that space and Impact Garden was born. I still can’t believe it happened, but through the unbelievable support of everyone at Madison Square Garden and through the dedication of a unique team of people that believed in the mission, we hosted a first-ever yoga class, led by sustainable fashion maven/supermodel/yoga instructor Angela Lindvall, on the court of MSG and followed it with a beautiful artisan marketplace of 15 ethical brands from all over the world. We were SO grateful to have Kopal there! I believe that Impact Garden was an outlet for exposure of these brands to a unique NYC audience that 1) loves fashion but 2) cares about our Earth and the wellness of its people, and I am beyond grateful to have been able to play a role in making that introduction!
I have since kept one foot in the modeling door and have maintained my interest in and support for brands like Kopal that are doing amazing work and creating beautiful pieces, but I also started back at school in Fall of 2016. I’m studying Psychology at Columbia University and am currently working as a research assistant in our Developmental Affective Neuroscience lab. My dream is to one day bring all of my passions together under one roof, but for now they all exist through my writing and model mentorship program that is hosted at www.spaceforanything.com.
How has the fashion landscape changed in the last 5-10 years?
I think the biggest change in the fashion landscape is awareness. Habits take a long time to change and we have created such wasteful habits over the last several decades, especially when it comes to clothing and fast fashion. However, I have been seeing an awareness spread of thoughtful consumption and am so grateful to brands like Kopal and deux mains for providing people with high quality brands to look to when they want to make changes and shop more ethically. Many people believe that ethical can’t be fashionable, but that’s one of the reasons I love you all so much – you are leaders in creating beautiful, comfortable, ethically-minded pieces.
Do you think the modelling landscape has changed over the last 5-10 years?
Absolutely. Modeling has also seen a shift in awareness. It’s hard to encapsulate in one paragraph the amount of change that has occurred. However, from an awareness of the need for diversity to a focus on including model’s voices and humanity in many projects, I think there is a really positive shift happening across the board.
How do you continue to make a conscious effort to work with artists and empower women?
Currently, my efforts to bring awareness to brands that I believe in consists mostly of my writing about them on Space For Anything. I love to be able to point people to brands that I know are trustworthy, doing great work, and making beautiful, high-quality products. I do model for brands from time to time and definitely choose to wear pieces from companies I believe in, but I have really been enjoying writing about them as of late! Also, this goes beyond fashion. In fact, one of my favorite brands that I’ve written about is a candle company called Prosperity Candle, that provides women who have had to flee their home countries with dignified work creating absolutely beautiful candles.
What are some of the biggest success stories of brands you have worked with?
I have to speak to the success of Deux Mains, especially since I am so close to their story. Deux Mains was only making one style of flip-flip when I first met them. While it was a beautiful flip flop, I knew they needed to expand their selection if they were going to reach a bigger audience and increase their sales. So, I worked with the artisans to design a new style, and the Bel Nanm was born. They’ve since expanded to bags, jewelry, and accessories and have created some beautiful partnerships with brands like Kenneth Cole as well as filling game-changing orders for companies like Faithbox and Peace By Piece International. Their non-profit partner (where I sit on the Board of Directors) just recently opened a 100% solar-powered factory in Port au Prince! We all went down for the opening (including Kenneth Cole and his team) and it was such a fun event! It’s just amazing to think of how far the brand has come and how many lives they have impacted through ethical fashion!
If you could live anywhere - where would you live?
My husband and I were asked this by a family member over the holidays and neither one of us could come up with an answer besides NYC! I’ve been in New York for over 12 years now and it has felt like home since day one. I do often dream of living somewhere on a beach, with a much slower pace, but I’m certain I would miss all of the excitement and culture and movement of New York.
Have you ever been to Australia - especially Byron Bay?
I traveled to Australia for work about 10 years ago – to Sydney – to shoot in a studio for three days! Can you believe that? The modeling industry is so funny. But, yes, they flew me and the whole team from London to Sydney for that job. We stayed right next to the Opera House and I wanted to be sure to get something unique to Australia in, so I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge when I had a break. We went at sunset and it was fantastic! I’d love to go back and really get to explore one day.
Tell us your favorite Kopal piece and what you love about Kopal?
You will often find me in the beautiful, flowy Jaya dress! It’s so perfect for the hot summer days I love. It keeps me cool and feeling put together and sophisticated. My love for Kopal is only exceeded by what a kind and beautiful soul Kopal is, herself. I am so grateful to know Kopal and her brand and can’t wait to see what their future holds!
You did an amazing shoot in Haiti with Kopal clothing – how was that?
Haiti is one of my favorite places on this planet! I was so thrilled to have Kopal’s clothing for that shoot because I believe Kopal matches Haiti in its beauty, in its drive, and in its wonderful flowy-ness! ☺ If that doesn’t make perfect sense, I recommend that you grab yourself some Kopal items, travel to Haiti, and try not to find yourself struck by the symbiosis of it all!
What do the next 3-5 years hold in store for you?
I’ll definitely still be finishing my degree (I’ve got 2 years left for my Bachelor’s and then several years of grad school after) and modeling when it fits into my school schedule. I’ll still be supporting my favorite ethical brands and trying to spread the word about shopping with an eye focused on brands with ethical and sustainable practices. And I’ll definitely be writing even more! I’m really excited about bringing that part of me more to the forefront of what I do.
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