Emma siert de cover van de januari 2024 editie van de Britse Vogue met een nieuwe fotoshoot en interview. Edit: Inmiddels zijn enkele outtakes vervangen voor HQ versies en scans van het tijdschrift toegevoegd.
Emma Watson On Eco-Conscious Fashion, Stepping Back From Acting & Becoming A Dog Mum
As Emma Watson – a champion of sustainability since child stardom – embarks on a personal and professional reset, she tells Emily Chan why the environment remains front and centre in her mission.
“Oh, my God, where have these been all day?” squeals Emma Watson, who has just spotted a massive jar of retro sweets in the corner of the east London studio we’re in. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone more excited, but then it is 8pm on a cold November night and after a long day on set it’s little wonder that the 33-year-old is in need of a sugar boost.
Her energy levels may be flagging, but Watson certainly knows how to turn it on when she needs to – unsurprising, really, given that she’s been in front of the camera practically her whole life. “You’re the one who’s been covering all my sustainable stuff,” the actor enthuses post shoot, as we settle down on a sofa for our conversation. “[You’re] the person who’s been, like, actually noticing all these weird things I’ve been doing for years.”
She is correct, although weird isn’t the word I would use to describe Watson’s avid support of eco-conscious fashion. Trend-setting, yes, even pioneering: way back in 2009, when Watson was just 19 years old and the word “sustainable” was barely part of our collective mainstream vocabulary, she had collaborated on a collection with fair trade brand People Tree. Later, on the red carpet, she wore archival and repurposed looks long before the current trend took off. Take the 2016 Met Gala, for example, where she sported a Calvin Klein gown made of recycled plastic bottles. On the Beauty and the Beast press tour the following year, she documented her planet-friendly looks via a dedicated Instagram account, listing the green credentials and endeavours of every brand she wore, while behind the scenes she worked with costume designer Jacqueline Durran to ensure the looks she wore on-screen were also made with the same ethos in mind. More recently, she sat on Gucci-owner Kering’s board of directors, as chair of its sustainability committee, and has championed a new crop of eco-minded designers, such as Harris Reed.
And so, being photographed for the cover of British Vogue as a sustainability trailblazer was an effortless choice. It is, she says in her familiar, perky well-to-do accent, a “big day” for her, as being recognised in this issue is something that she “genuinely dreamed about as an 18-year-old”. Hours earlier, she was wearing an upcycled, paper-like Maison Margiela look, followed by a black and white polka-dot minidress by Stella McCartney, her hair ruffled and tousled in a punkish style, while she casually posed with Florence the duck, who arrived with a handler for a cameo in the shoot. (Also on set? Her beloved dog, Sofia, believed to be part corgi, whom Watson adopted from Mexico. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” she says, beaming. “I was always judgemental about people who were really obsessed with their pets and then I became one of those people,” she adds. “Really embarrassing.”)
Emma Watson Talks Turning 30, Working With Meryl Streep, And Being Happily Single
Preloved Balenciaga biker jacket Reluxe Fashion. Regenerative cotton dress Vivienne Westwood. Preloved Saint Laurent…
Preloved Balenciaga biker jacket, Reluxe Fashion. Regenerative cotton dress, Vivienne Westwood. Preloved Saint Laurent shirt, Vestiaire Collective. Knotted gold-vermeil earring, Completedworks. Gold-vermeil and quartz earrings, Otiumberg. Gold and citrine ring and gold and green amethyst ring, By Pariah. Charlotte Wales
As well as using archival pieces, the Vogue team has once again consulted the Good On You app, which rates brands according to their impact on people, planet and animals, to choose the looks for today’s shoot. It’s evident that Watson – who’s now changed into a vintage Dior shirt, Saint Laurent tuxedo jacket and jeans, her chestnut locks tamed somewhat – likes to do her homework. “We’re still in a place where 100 billion garments are made every year,” she reels off. “The deadstock fabric and the burning of so many clothes that don’t make it to the consumer is obviously a massive, massive problem.” Leather, too, is a major concern: “[It’s] just awful for the planet.”
Wary of sounding preachy, the actor adds that you don’t need to be a “perfect environmentalist” in order to speak out and make a difference. “Perfection is the enemy of almost everything that’s important,” she says. “The place where I have influence is, I’m an actress, and I work in the fashion industry, and so my points of contact are Hollywood and fashion. I do what I can to push as hard as I can within those [spaces].”
Watson credits a geography teacher for her environmental awakening as a teenager (“all of this is testimony to how teachers can completely transform your life”). A trip to Bangladesh, soon after, fuelled her activism. “I remember meeting a girl who was exactly my age, working in [one of the garment factories],” she recalls, her face filling with emotion. “It was a bit of a, ‘Oh, my God, we could just have been born in different places and everything would be totally different.’”
Still, she admits there have been times when she’s felt disillusioned by the lack of progress made. “I would work with stylists and people would literally laugh at me – they thought this was some silly thing that I’d forget about,” she remembers. “I think I lost heart for a little while; I did feel so discouraged, if I’m being honest. I kind of expected that the whole world would be different the next day and what I have come to learn is that change does take time.”
Preloved Gucci bomber jacket Hardly Ever Worn It. Embroidered waistcoat Giorgio Armani. Preloved Gucci trackpants Reluxe…
Preloved Gucci bomber jacket, Hardly Ever Worn It. Embroidered waistcoat, Giorgio Armani. Preloved Gucci trackpants, Reluxe Fashion. Crystal necklace, Chloé. Charlotte Wales
It’s a story that anyone who feels like they’re screaming into a void can relate to. Does the eco-anxiety get too much sometimes? “I’ve had to relearn the difference between staying informed and just kind of leaking all of my energy and creativity,” she replies. “I try to think about the fact that I need to fill my cup so much that there’s a spillover that I can share. I used to let my cup run all the way out empty and then be like, ‘Oh, I feel terrible, and I feel so overwhelmed, and I can’t do this.’ And I think part of me being 33 now is knowing that to sustain yourself you’ve really got to get ahead of your breaking points.”
Watson has retreated from the limelight in recent years, a period in which, she revealed in a much-liked Instagram post, has seen her go through her “Saturn return”. For those who don’t fall into the category of astrology believer, this is when the planet Saturn returns to the same position as it was when you were born, something that happens roughly every 27 to 29.5 years, supposedly causing major realignment in our lives.
“Going into my 30s, I was in this moment of real change and [thinking] ‘What is going on?’,” she reflects. “And it was someone else who said to me, ‘Oh, this is normal. You’re going through your Saturn return.’ [I was] like, ‘What is that and why has no one warned me?!’ I’ve spoken to so many women and so many of my friends who said, ‘Oh, yeah, between 28 and, like, 30, 31, 32, that kind of age, everything shifted.’ ”
Those shifting “tectonic plates” have seen Watson take a step back from acting (her last film, Little Women, was released in 2019), try her hand at directing (resulting in a Prada fragrance commercial) and enrol on a creative writing MA programme (she’s already written a play, but keeps the details tightly under wraps). Turning down major Hollywood roles can’t have been easy, I suggest. “Because I’m in a career that moves very quickly, the decision to take time to do these things felt like a very big decision,” she admits. “[Choosing] to go back and write and study and get behind the camera was terrifying for me because I’d never done it before. I had always been in front of the camera; I’d always been an actor.”
It’s clear that Watson has relished regaining control of her life, after appearing on the big screen in various roles since the age of 10. The actor confesses that her characters have felt, at times, “much realer” than she was. “I’m just so glad that I did [step away from acting] because I have this feeling of having my own voice and creative space and sovereignty in some way that I don’t think I did before – more autonomy,” she tells me quietly, as if she’s letting me in on a secret. “I’m so glad that I allowed things to be messy for a minute and to really allow myself to not know [what’s next], because the knowing that I’ve come to, I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
This time has allowed Watson to concentrate on her “inner scorecard” (how you feel about yourself on the inside), versus her “outer scorecard” (your outward success, as seen on social media, for example). “I get a front row seat [with] some of the most successful, beautiful, incredible people in the world,” she says of Hollywood’s inner sanctum. “And when you have that seat it becomes very, very clear that there is just absolutely no level of success that will make you in any way happy or content if you do not like who you are or enjoy what you’re doing when no one’s watching.”
Turning that attention inwards has seen journalling become a daily practice for Watson (it was actually a stranger who spotted her “furiously” scribbling away in her notebook while on a plane that alerted her to the inner/outer scorecard idea. By the end of the flight the two were “dear friends” – and still are). She’s now prioritising “really stupid things”, such as playing pickleball and collecting stickers. And then there’s her dog, Sofia. “I just look at her and I’m like, ‘Well, I’m happy and you’re happy.’ The thing that is so amazing about animals is they’re just so good at being. Food, humans, sleep – they’re very good at the basics. I feel like whenever I get really overwhelmed, I’m like, ‘Emma, just do the basics.’ ”
However much Watson is at ease with herself now and happy with the way her life is heading, I get the sense that she is nervous about returning to the spotlight. She makes a point of not naming those she mentions in conversation, for fear they get “lots of people” – the press and social media fans, I infer – contacting them. Considering that her every move has been scrutinised from an early age, it’s understandable that she is guarded about her private life. But she does clarify that her comment on being happily “self-partnered” during her last British Vogue cover interview, in 2019, wasn’t “necessarily about me celebrating being single. Getting to the point when I was 30, I was realising, ‘Oh, maybe I’ve figured out some things about how to care for myself better – maybe quite well, actually.’ And taking pride in that.”
Preloved Dior trench coat Vestiaire Collective. Recycled aluminium ring pull gown Conner Ives. Goldvermeil and rock…
Preloved Dior trench coat, Vestiaire Collective. Recycled aluminium ring pull gown, Conner Ives. Gold-vermeil and rock crystal earrings, Angharad. Charlotte Wales
It’s evident, though, that Watson gets her energy from the tight-knit group of friends and family that she keeps around her (she recently launched a gin brand, Renais, with her brother, Alex – who makes an appearance on set to take over Sofia duties – made using grape waste from their dad’s vineyard in France). “Coming out of Covid, I really understood the importance of building community, having community and investing, very intentionally, time and energy into that,” she says.
It’s also why she’ll keep fighting for a better planet, a decade and a half after she first began. “Activism is about connection, community and joy,” Watson reflects, “because what is joyful is sustainable – what you love to do is something you can do for a long time. And that’s what we need.” Her 18-year-old self would be proud.