Each month, The New Fashion Initiative invites a leading voice in the sustainable and ethical fashion revolution to answer 17 questions about themselves, both personal and professional. It’s our green and socially conscious spin on Vanity Fair‘s beloved Proust Questionnaire. This month, our interviewee is Susan Rockefeller, a passionate environmentalist with a lifelong mission to make our planet healthier and more abundant for all who share it. In 1992, she wrote the pioneering book Green at Work: Finding a Business Career That Works for the Environment, which demonstrates how anything you do in life can be done in a way that benefits the planet. She went on to create award-winning documentaries on topics such as ocean conservation and sustainable agriculture that have aired on HBO, PBS and the Discovery Channel. Her films include: Food For Thought, Food For Life; Striking a Chord; Making the Crooked Straight; Running Madness; Take Time; and Mission of Mermaids. Susan has also launched several fine jewelry collections and brand collaborations that use message-inspired products to prompt conversation surrounding environmental issues. She is a board member of Oceana and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, founder of Musings (a newsletter and digital magazine focused on sustainability and activism), and Sustainability Editor at Entity magazine, as well as a sustainability advisor to globally renowned businesses and financial institutions.
1. What is your favorite article of clothing?
Oh gosh, I kind of have a uniform of Levi jeans, Christian Louboutin black suede boots, any silk blouse (preferably black) that feels awesome to the touch, and my black Tumi puffer jacket. I always accessorize with jewelry, mostly that I have designed myself to add style and color.
2. What is the most wonderful thing about the fashion industry right now?
Fashion will forever be a way to express who we are, and now it can be a force for good with more focus on circular economy, material innovation and supply chain transparency. My hope for the future of fashion is more ‘cyber-avatar’ where you can dress in whatever extravagant style you wish online before purchasing. Same goes for simple day-to-day uniforms that are functionally attractive for shielding the body from harmful sun or cold.
3. What do you think is the most shocking thing about fashion today?
The relentless need to reinvent the same stuff over and over again at a rate of alarming acceleration.
4. What’s your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?
5. What is your favorite indulgence?
A glass of red wine with gorgonzola cheese and crunchy apples and pears. Or popcorn with organic olive oil, nutritional yeast seasoning, sea kelp delight seasoning and organic sprinkle 24 herb and spice seasoning—all made by Bragg’s.
6. What makes you happiest?
Being in the flow of my creativity and gratitude about this life that I have been given.
7. What environmental or social problem are we overlooking?
Lack of empathy for all sentient beings.
8. Are you more introverted or extroverted?
9. What do you do first in the morning?
I read a gratitude quote and a daily meditation (from All Souls) with my husband.
10. What was the happiest moment of this past year?
Seeing my Atelier Swarovski collection come to life, and working with such a creative team for the rollout in Asia.
11. Best professional moment of your life thus far?
Becoming a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
12. What was the last outfit you wore that made you feel amazing?
A black dress embellished with a gold dragon custom made for me by Josie Natori, which I wore to an Asian Cultural Council gala and to The Academy Awards.
13. Favorite movie?
For 2020, Aquarela directed by Viktor Kossakovsky—if poetry could reside in a film, this film captured the beauty and power of water and watching it was like being in a mesmerizing meditation.
14. How do you recharge?
Sleep, sleep and more sleep.
15. What three words describe you best?
Creative, driven, loyal.
16. What makes you laugh the hardest?
Seeing photos of my children when they were young and reliving memories of them growing up. I also laugh the hardest when my kids are laughing. You are only as happy as your least happy child, so if both are laughing, I laugh hard too.
16. Favorite book?
Miss Rumphius, written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney