Get To Know Emma Håkansson — Model, Activist and Founder of Conscious Creative Agency Willow
Emma Håkansson (@hakamme) is a model on a mission to help shape the fashion industry for the better.
She uses her profile to inspire positive action, now works exclusively with ethical and sustainable brands, and has just launched a production and consulting agency for do-good businesses.
I happened to work with Emma recently on a dreamy editorial for Willow, which featured ethical labels, conscious creatives and some darling rescue kid goats (see some images at the end of this article).
Get to know Emma…
You’re a passionate advocate and activist for several causes. What are some of these — what's important to you?
Essentially respect is important to me. Respect for everyone’s right to live a safe and happy life, with that ‘everyone’ including all beings, human and animal (all animals). This respect extends to the planet too. If we showed more respect as a whole, the world would be a better place. We’d all be vegan, treat the people we interact with (not just in person but through consumerism), and the earth, much better.
You’ve just launched something exciting called Willow. Tell us about this.
Yes! Willow Creative Co is mostly two things (though it can do some other things too): A production agency which creates all kinds of content for brands and businesses that make a conscious effort to be ethical in what they do, and that make the world a better, not worse place. It’s also an ethics consultancy agency that helps brands and businesses become kinder - by swapping to more eco friendly fabrics, to animal free materials, to more sustainable packaging, by changing parts of their supply chain that may not respect those working in it. I hope Willow is both creating beautiful things to promote those doing good, and helping others do good, too.
Where did the idea to start Willow come from? Was it something you’ve had brewing for a while?
I have been vegan, passionate about ethics and sustainability, a model that loved fashion, and a creative for a while, and I wanted a job that meant making the world kinder. I wasn’t sure how these things were going to come together, and then I thought up Willow. Bringing Willow into existence meant being able to continue to work in fashion, without feeling as though I was supporting something I didn’t want to. Willow itself is named after a lamb I fostered, who always makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
Who does Willow work with?
If it’s producing, Willow only works with the good guys, the people consciously trying to do good, and achieving that in different ways, even if they aren’t perfect (who is?). Ethics mean different things to different people, and so one brand Willow works with may be less sustainable than another, but is creating wonderful positive change in the vegan realm, or the realm of ethical manufacturing in terms of people. If it’s for consultation, Willow will work with anyone, really, because the point is to help businesses become kinder, so it’s okay if they’re not yet, if they’re ready to improve. Willow mostly works in fashion, as I made most of my professional connections through working in fashion, but Willow is not exclusively for fashion brands. I’d love to see Willow working with all sorts.
What do you think individuals can do to create a more sustainable and more thoughtful world?
The first thing we all have to do is to begin to think more about the consequences of our choices that at first may seem isolated. When we buy something, we are supporting a whole lot of things, whether we think about those things or not. If we aren’t being conscious, we are likely consuming and supporting harmful things. We need to ask questions and sit and think about what is important to us - what we want to stand for, and what we won’t support. We need to own our choices and their repercussions. I think that first step has a lot of positive ripple effects.
What’s your morning beauty routine?
Whether or not I wear make up at all changes pretty frequently, but skin care wise, I cleanse my face in the shower with a Bisous Store cloth (which I use to take off make up too, so I don’t have to use single use ones). I drink a shot of apple cider vinegar and tone my skin with it too, still in the shower. Then I moisturise. I sort of rotate between Sukin’s rosehip day cream, The Abnormal Beauty Co’s vegan hyaluronic acid serum, and an oil blend from The Source. Then I put on Natio sunscreen because I burn super easily.
What are some of your favourite wardrobe pieces at the moment?
Hmmmm. My most worn shoes are my vegan Dr Marten black boots which I’ve had almost three years. Whenever my hair is up I have a Shop Remy scrunchie in it, my Sans Beast ‘Noir Croco Jane Of All Trades’ bag, Neinties earrings and at the moment wearing a lot of my basics - vintage Levi jeans and things from stores in Melbourne like Vintage Sole and Recycled Boutique.
Do you have any favourite brands or stores for people wanting to add more ethical & sustainable fashion to their wardrobe?
Yes! Some favourites (which I don’t necessarily have something from, because I’m always learning of new brands and my wallet definitely could not keep up), at the moment are Bedroom The Label, Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather, Reformation, Arnsdorf, Homie, The Velvet Heartbeat.
Do you have a favourite shoot you’ve worked on?
My favourite shoot I’ve done was probably the campaign I did for De Lorenzo. I worked on it as a model, but it was the first job I got after being dropped from my Sydney modelling agency. It had been difficult working with an agency and saying no to jobs they wanted me to go for, that I wouldn’t do because they weren’t ethical. That shoot made me realise I could freelance and do it myself, and stand by my values. My hair was also blue and a bit mullet-y which was super fun.
Do you have a dream brand or photographer you’d like to work with?
Ooooh. I have a ridiculous amount of dreams!! I would love to shoot with Alexi Lubomirski, he’s probably the biggest vegan photographer around and while he doesn’t work exclusively with ethical brands, his work is amazing and it’s important we have all sorts of people celebrated for their gifts being advocates for veganism. I’d love to shoot for Stella McCartney, for some brands I have relationships with at the moment, but that are far away overseas, for Matt and Nat. I’d love to see big brands that aren’t that ethical coming to Willow to become kinder, and then shoot for them with new, kinder pieces.
What makes you happy?
Seeing the world becoming kinder, animals, talking to people who get excited about what they do, my couch that I just got secondhand which is green velvet, how my brain feels when I’m creating, being with friends and feeling I can be completely myself.
What are you reading at the moment?
‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape’, by Sohaila Abdulali, I just started it.
Where is your favourite place to eat in Melbourne? (Emma’s + our home city)
I can’t choose one! Smith and Deli, Loving Hut, Woking Amazing, Matcha Mylkbar, Lentil As Anything.
What was your last meal?
A big smoothie with soy milk, banana, peanut butter, some Ben and Jerry’s vegan chocolate ice cream (hehe), spirulina, chia seeds, oats.
Do you have any favourite podcasts, websites or books that you find inspiring? (Or are a great resource?)
I don’t listen to podcasts! I’ve been asked this a few times recently and fear I’ve become the only person who doesn’t listen to them?! I find poetry and pictures very inspiring. Two books I love are Maya Angelou’s ‘And Still I Rise’, ‘The Book of Symbols’ which looks at the history of all sorts of symbology. At the moment I look at Louise Bourgeois and Jenny Holzer’s works a lot. I love this website (!). Two resources that I learnt from and that solidified my beliefs so strongly are The True Cost and Dominion.
Who are 3 people on Instagram you’d recommend following?
@_enterthedragon_ who is Aretha Brown, a strong indigenous woman and activist, @filippaedghill who is an artist I love, and @ethicalange who is the National Manager of Ethical Clothing Australia, who I learn a lot from following.
Lastly, if you could share one message with the world, what would it be?
What you do matters so much, and our power, at all levels, desperately needs to be used with kindness.