Actress Nikki Reed is fiercely passionate about animal rights, which is why a collaboration with Freedom of Animals, Morgan Bogle's line of sustainable, animal-friendly bags, felt like a no-brainer: "I sat down with Morgan and in the first five minutes, we looked at each other and I said, 'This has to be a partnership.' I want to know her forever," said Reed. Their immediate connection resulted in a six-piece collection of vegan handbags: a tasseled bucket bag, a circle bag, and belt bag that detaches into a clutch, all in a variety of neutrals. "My goal wasn't about anything other than creating really practical pieces," said Reed. Read on for more about the collection and their mutual passion for protecting animals:
Harpers BAZAAR: Morgan, can you tell me a little bit about the ethos of Freedom of Animals and how you got it started?
Morgan Bogle: I launched two years ago. I've been a stylist for about 10 years and it was really difficult for me to work with fur and skins and it eventually became challenging to work with leather, so I didn't really know what to do. I started to rescue pit bulls and I started to travel the world volunteering at animal sanctuaries to try and give back and finally I realized I could do more and I could marry the two worlds. So two years ago, in September, I launched Freedom of Animals, initially as a way to offer people an alternative to leather and exotics. But then through my research it became this necessity to offer people a sustainable alternative, and that to me is what I'm pushing the most right now, because the materials I use are recycled plastics, which you know, we remove plastic from landfills and the ocean and we don't need it there. I use this fabric that takes that and melts it and uses a very low carbon emission process to do it and the chemical contents are really low and the colors are achieved with vegetable-based dye. There is no leather or animal products used whatsoever. We make everything in the USA, so it's trying to train people that you can consume responsibly and sustainably.
HB: Nikki, how did you get to know Freedom of Animals and what made you decide to collaborate with the brand?
Nikki Reed: We had a very organic introduction. I think if anybody knows myself or Morgan, you are just constantly overwhelmed by the information tossed your way in the world of environmental causes or animal rights. Not that we're like, shoving them in people's faces, but it's not easy to deny that we feel a certain way. We happen to have a mutual friend named Cece. She was in a film that I filmed many years ago and she reached out and connected us. I sat down with Morgan and in the first five minutes, we looked at each other and I said, "This has to be a partnership." This is not something we're just doing for a couple months together and we just say good bye and go our separate ways. I want to know her forever. I want to do stuff together forever and I am more inspired by this woman and her ability to take this dream, a vision and an idea and turn it into something tangible and not only that, to increase the awareness exponentially. She's done this all on her own and I guess somehow her gut led her to me because I guess she knows that I live and breathe the things that I talk about. They affect my every molecule in me. Everything I do is about or for animals.
Also, there is a world of extremism that you tend to tap into when you get into sustainable materials. My whole method, that I think that Morgan really connected with, was the idea that you don't have to be one or the other, and that's really where I've been going with this. This is not about being on the train or off the train, or being a kind of person who supports a local economy and sustainable fashion or not. If you still want to wear your favorite pair of leather shoes, there is no judgment around what your lifestyle choices are. All we want to do is give an alternative and educate people and say "Hey, that's a way of meeting in the middle." Because this is about being inclusive, not exclusive. This line was not created with any undertones of judgment. This is just about giving people other options and if people give a little something, together we can accomplish a lot of something.
HB: Nikki, can you give me a little back story about how you got involved working for animal rights?
NR: It was all my mom's fault, probably. I grew up with a mom that literally let me take in any and everything. At one point we were bottle-feeding 13 bunnies every two hours with a little tiny dropper and putting diapers on raccoons. I mean anything I found, we could either keep or re-home or rehabilitate and I think that this comes from my mom, because she didn't have parents growing up. Her parents died when she was very young and she always says that she's just trying to do her best to be mom to everybody and everything. So when I made enough money to let my mom live with me—by the way my whole goal in life is to always take care of my mom—and as soon as I could I let my mom move into a guest house I built on my property for her, we made jokes about how I just built this guest house so we could rescue more animals together. I was totally giving her that position like, "Sorry, Ma, you want to live here? Here's another litter of puppies."
So it started with that. Now, everybody knows that if they want to come to me and they have a cause, I will happily stand behind that if I believe in it. I testified at the State Capitol [in California] a couple months ago for a project (which, by the way, they just passed the law, so yay for us!). People started approaching me and realizing that my passion was just beyond, "Hey, can you send a tweet for me?" I think I get more involved than the average person. I guess it's in my bones. I'm learning on a daily basis and I think it's really important for people to understand that I'm not the educator, I'm being educated. On a daily basis people really reach out to you in this world, and then you realize that you can share this with so many people. I learned stuff just the other day about blood lions. The people who shot our campaign for Freedom of Animals sent us some information about them—these lions are being bred in captivity so that people can pay lumps sums of money to shoot them. With a bunch of money they go out and murder animals to feel cool about themselves. I had no idea that this was even going on. Everything had been so hidden until the world of social media. We used to hide everything and now you can't hide anything and that transparency is also kind of scary, I think. Anyway, I'm learning as well. I'm not the be-all, know-all of this information. I'm figuring it out as you guys do.
HB: What was the inspiration for the collection?
NR: I sat down with Morgan and the first thing I said was, "I just want to create pieces that people will love and they will want to wear every single day." So it's not about, "Let's find something that's different." My goal wasn't about anything other than creating really practical pieces. The white suede was one piece that Morgan and I went to and we were like, "Yeah, let's go with this," because it's very fashion-forward and it feels very high-end. So that's the only decision that we made that felt slightly less practical, I think.
MB: Slightly, but it's so beautiful. Just for me, anytime I design I have to consider the fabrications because although there's not many, there are a couple limitations. I also like when you have a bag, for example, like a belt bag, the fact that you can take the strap off and it can become a clutch, I love that. It's like a two-in-one thing and I feel like these circle bags are cool. I wear my circle bags all day during the day and I really feel like you can wear them anywhere.
NR: I'm so in love with the idea of having that one piece that transforms so easily and the clutch and fanny pack combo is something that I'm so fond of because I actually wear it. I actually wear fanny packs all the time so to have something that actually transforms like that is the most convenient thing ever, because that white clutch goes from being a belt bag to a red carpet clutch in 30 seconds. I saw a few friends looking at them and I asked them what they loved, and it's funny because we kind of created a line that doesn't have a favorite piece. Everyone picks something different; it's awesome.
HB: You mentioned that you want this to be a partnership, what's next for the collaboration then?
NR: Well, we're talking about it all the time. We're having a get-together this weekend in New York. We both have a ton of ideas and I love her so much and I don't want it to be over.
HB: Is there anything you guys would like to add about the collection?
MB: So we made these tassel key chains and we are selling them on freedomofanimals.com exclusively. We're partnering with the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, so with every purchase 10% is donated to them, which is really exciting for us. For every bag we make, we partner with an organisation so with these we're doing it with Nikki's husband's foundation.
Nikki Reed x Freedom of Animals is available at freedomofanimals.com now. This article first appeared in Harper's Bazaar US.