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The star chats finding new passions, saving the planet, and the power of collective change.
You’ll have heard of Karlie Kloss, the 29-year-old supermodel and entrepreneur who launched her non-profit Kode With Klossy – aimed at supporting teenage girls to follow career paths in STEM industries – in 2015.
Fronting the fifth iteration of adidas’ Run For The Oceans campaign – a campaign which sees ocean pollution cleared up for every minute of recorded workout on the adidas app – we got to nab an exclusive interview with the star to chat all things running and sustainability.
With the aim of bringing sporting communities together to make positive change, Kloss talks about finding new passions (running, FYI), overcoming gym anxiety, and the power of collective change. Keep scrolling – and don’t miss our guides to calculating your carbon footprint, while you’re here.
Karlie Kloss: “Sustainability can feel overwhelmingly large – but we can all be part of the change.”
Jumping on a mid-afternoon Zoom call on Monday, the supermodel greets me with a beaming smile and a quick apology about being on her mobile – “technical difficulties!”, she laughs.
Joining me from her home in Miama, we get straight to it with a quick explainer about why she’s decided to front the adidas campaign again. “Something that I care about in all facets of my life is how we can collectively be a part of the change,” she shares. “Action from everyone, everywhere, is so vitally important for the health of our planet and our oceans – and without everyone, we won’t truly create change.”
So why adidas? And why the Run For The Oceans campaign? Sustainability is clearly close to her heart, but what is it about the brand that she loves? Besides the fact she rates the brand’s functional performance wear and sustainability credentials, she believes that if we all come together, we can help make the world of difference – which is what the campaign is all about.
“It’s an accessible way to be a part of creating change of a global problem – which can feel overwhelmingly large,” she emphasises. “This campaign highlights the simple steps we can take every single day to really build a more sustainable future.”
Not sure what she’s talking about? From May 23 until June 8, for every ten minutes of recorded running or activity you submit via the adidas app, parley will clean up the equivalent weight of one plastic bottle from beaches and remote islands across the coastlines before it reaches the ocean. Pretty neat.
While the initiative is no doubt great, sustainable living can sometimes still feel overwhelming, I put to the star. So why is building a better tomorrow centre stage of her agenda?
“I’m calling you from Miami and I’m looking at the ocean right now,” she smiles. Reflecting how lucky she is to wake up and see the far-reaching body of water every single day, she shares that growing up, sustainability wasn’t at the centre of the cultural conversation or even discussed at her family dinner table. “It’s not something I was hyper-aware of,” she shares truthfully. “But in the last few years, it’s become evident that the time is now to really make a change.”
“We need action from everyone, everywhere, to truly make a difference.”
That said, she reflects that she’s someone who’s worked in the fashion industry for half of her life and seen the negative impact it’s having on the environment. “I’m extremely aware of the impact the industry has on our ecosystems – there’s a lot of room for improvement,” she reflects. “There’s so much work that needs to be done, as an industry, to continue to strive for healthier oceans and a healthier planet.”
For Kloss, it wasn’t one lightbulb moment, per se, but rather, a gradual acknowledgement that something had to change to protect our planet – before it’s too late. “I started to research the impact of the fashion industry as a whole on water waste and so on,” she explains. “As an industry, we’re one of the most polluting, which got me thinking about how can we innovate, and how we create materials as an industry. How can we be creative and solve this problem?”
The first step? Awareness, and after that, education.”Campaigns like Run For The Ocean really highlight that we can all play a part in this work – all of us, in our daily lives, whether it’s recycling something or buying from certain brands.” (Read our round-up of our favourite B Corp brands, here).
So what has she changed in her day-to-day that she believes is making a difference? She shares that she’s the normally the one with a “Mary Poppins bag of things at all times,” from a big reusable water bottle (emphasis on big – she says it’s half a gallon) to glass reusable straws. “I really am somebody who likes an iced coffee, so I keep my straw in my bag at all times,” she shares.
Not just that, but she’s much more mindful of the brand she shops with, these days. That, she implies, is how we can make a real change. “If I’m thinking about buying something, I think holistically. I’ll ask myself, am I going to wear this many times over? If not, then I won’t purchase.”
She’s learnt a lot from her Kode with Klossy scholars – she shares that they are deeply passionate about sustainability and the future of our planet. “They’re all brilliant young people who are using their coding skills to make a difference. Seeing their passion in this space made me realise my role in helping do whatever I can, as well,” she explains.
So, has she always been a passionate runner and will she be taking part in the Run For The Oceans challenge herself? Not in the traditional sense – “I was never a runner growing up,” she professes – but she’s always been super active, doing football, tennis, basketball, ballet, and swimming as a teen.
She took up running after she started modelling and has never looked back – but she did have to overcome a bit of a mental block before tackling the New York City Marathon in 2017.
“I always found running quite mentally intimidating,” she explains thoughtfully. “I felt like it wasn’t for me – in hindsight, I definitely self-selected out of it because I found the mental block of it was kind of too much.”
That said, she found a new love for the sport after training for that first marathon. On taking on the marathon distance having previously not laced up that regularly? “I’m crazy like that. I think that’s a window into how I operate,” she laughs. “I loved training slowly and building up my endurance little by little, you know? It was just one foot in front of the other.”
Her third collection with adidas launches this week, too, offering everything from fit kit to footwear. Before she shoots off for more press calls and shoots, I ask her for any final words of wisdom. How has she adopted a more sustainable lifestyle, and what’s her advice for those who might find eco-living a bit, well, overwhelming? “No action is too small,” she says confidently. “We all have the power to choose – whether that’s reusing a water bottle or throw it away. It’s on all of us.”
ADIDAS X KARLIE KLOSS SEAMLESS KNIT LAYERED TOP – £43
ADIDAS X KARLIE KLOSS CREW SWEATSHIRT – £50
KARLIE KLOSS TRAINER XX92 VEGAN SHOES – £70
You don’t have to be a marathon runner to take part in the campaign – far from it, actually, as this year, all sporting activity recorded counts. Tennis? Squash-lover? Zumba-enthusiast? Record your workout to give back to the ocean. “Even recording a minute of a workout will help to clean up a plastic bottle, which is significant,” she explains.
For more information on the adidas x Parley Run For The Oceans campaign, head to adidas.co.uk/runfortheoceans.