Behind the Scenes at Crystal Renn’s All-Vegan Cover Shoot
Since a young age, Crystal Renn has been a leader in the fashion world. The model has walked runways from Paris to New York, graced the covers of glossy magazines, and been the face of designer campaigns the world over. But her latest project has been one of her most personal: Renn recently inspired an all-vegan cover shoot for the spring issue of L’OFFICIEL Italia, a leading luxury fashion magazine.
Everything on set was vegan, from the makeup to the clothes, the accessories, and, of course, the food for the crew. Renn, photographer Paul Empson, stylist Victoria Bartlett, and the entire crew ate catered vegan food and loved it. Now Renn is giving a glimpse into what the future of high-fashion could look like as more designers ditch fur and makeup companies are committing to go cruelty-free.
As a vegan for more than five years, Renn is using her substantial platform to educate and influence people both within her professional and in her personal life. We caught up with Renn to learn not only about her vegan cover shoot but to gain insights on everything from how she keeps her skin looking flawless, to her favorite vegan snack that keeps her fueled all day long.
The Beet: You recently did a vegan cover shoot for L'OFFICIEL. It was great to see the use of all-vegan products, makeup, and food, and you influenced that. Can you tell us how that came about?
CR: When you're putting a shoot together, it can be looked at as simply a series of choices to be made. Our intention for the Trailblazer issue of L'OFFICIEL was to make kinder ones, emphasizing the choice of vegan fabrics and products. We wanted to showcase to others what can be done on their shoots to affect change as well; we wanted to be an example of action.
Ultimately, it is about a fabric choice discussion. We attempted to convey that our transition as an industry to a cruelty-free one is not only possible but could be done with relative ease, considering the newest-in-technology fabrics on the market. We avoided skins, including leather, feathers, fur, wool, and silk for the shoot. It required expertise and know-how to navigate this uncharted territory, and thanks to superstar stylist Victoria Bartlett, we were able to take our message to the next level.
We approached high-fashion designers with this brief, and for some, it was the first vegan request that they had ever received. This made our concept even more exciting, in that we felt we were doing something significant. We pulled from fully-vegan designers such as Melie Bianco, Tiziano Guardini, and Benedetti Life and brought in SwatchOn vegan fabrics to make our headpieces. All of the beauty was animal-free, makeup, hair, manicure, and catering too, which was from Love Life Cafe. We even stayed at the 1 Hotel South Beach, a sustainable hotel. On top of all of this specialness, it was extra special to shoot in the Art's District returning home to my Birth City, Miami, especially under these compelling circumstances.
To see it all come together in the end with a vegan Chanel cover was epic, all-around one of my favorite shoots I will always look back on.
The Beet: Often, we say beauty comes from the inside out. Do you find that the food you eat has an impact on your skin? Anything you eat that might support good skin…and/or any great vegan products you use on your skin?
CR: In my world, everything is experienced as connected, and this point is always taken into consideration.
I reason I prefer to eat raw vegan is that it tends to clean up skin concerns quite quickly. It acts to soothe inflammation and add moisture, sometimes overnight, depending on the issue, which is beneficial for me because I have struggled with troublesome and reactive skin.
While still mostly raw, playing with temperature can be helpful for different purposes, and I will use this technique depending on what ails me. I like to think that I'm giving myself a facial internally, and sometimes you need steam and heat. The face can be very telling and a kind of map to the healing that needs to happen inside.
As an example, if I need moisture, I'll eat an avocado. If I'm red dry and splotchy, I will do an anti-inflammatory tonic with turmeric in warm cashew milk. If I'm breaking out, I drink a specific brew with hot water.
As for what I use on my face, I like using a food-grade hydrogen peroxide wash I make, then I use rice water toner, and finally, pure Jojoba oil for my moisturizer.
I'm off most commercially prepared products at the moment, and instead, I make my own at home because I prefer to keep it very basic and like the idea that my fridge is where I get my skincare. I am very experimental in this way.
The Beet: What's your go-to vegan snack that is quick, easy, with lasting energy?
CR: Everyone should know about Halva; it's one of my favorite things. It’s a Middle Eastern dessert made with sesame seeds is often made naturally and therefore is more nutritious and great for sustaining energy evenly. I pair it with Rose Kombucha, and you have a star of a combination.
I discovered it staying in Israel, a fantastic place to visit if you are vegan and want a superb culinary experience. It turned into a regular ritual to walk the Dolorosa in the Old City, Cardamom coffee in one hand, a chunk of Halva in the other. It just keeps you going for long stretches, it's excellent to travel with, and a little goes a long way.
I love dates and pistachios, which are daily staples. Also, any fruit or vegetable with a built-in container to cut down on mess and waste, such as avocados, bananas, papaya, which are easy to travel around with and can be found in most places, are a part of my travel go-to's.
I try to know where the local farmers market is in any location I am, acting as an oasis to grab and go from as needed. Then I always have access to in-season, local produce representing the place I'm visiting, capturing the culture, seeing locals in their day-to-day...
I grew to appreciate this ritual after becoming a CSA member in Brooklyn where I receive a box of organic produce every week when I'm here, all grown nearby. Nothing can beat that quality in terms of freshness, and all-around eating for my soul feels pretty fresh too.
The Beet: What is your advice to someone who wants to go vegan or just mostly plant-based?
CR: Identify what's holding you back, whether it be certain foods, products, fashions, etc., lack of convenience, and then research finding alternatives so the transition becomes possible. Creating a personal awareness is the best first step anyone can take.
Some struggle with diet, and my suggestion is to start outside of what you eat. Try beginning with the products you use and fabric choice in your clothing; sometimes, this can be easier. Supporting vegan brands simply with your dollar can have a vast impact on what products get made and how they get made. Buying a product is like micro-investing in a company, and because your buying power has sway, I suggest aligning yourself with companies that manifest what you want to see in the world.
I suggest that you clean up everything else, and then chisel away at the diet. With so many new plant-based imitation meats and cheeses it will hopefully become easier to make this transition for those who still want to eat a cheeseburger but do it ethically.