Glass speaks to model Taja Feistner about her sustainable sensibilities

BORN in Des Moines, Iowa, model Taja Feistner has built an impressive portfolio so far. Signed to six different modelling agencies, Feistner has walked for brands such as Mulberry, Preen, Richard Quinn, starred in campaigns for Prada, and has modelled as the cover for Vogue Ukraine and Harpers Bazaar.

When Feistner isn’t modelling she attends university at Penn State as an energy and sustainability policy student, when she manages to find time within her university schedule and modelling career, she also makes art using only sustainable materials. While working on all of these simultaneously she also campaigns for sustainability when she can. Whether this is on her Instagram, in her art, or in her current plans to launch a sustainable fashion label, Eka Minetta, later on in the year, – Taja Feistner is always campaigning, in her own way, for the greater good. Glass spoke with her to find out more about her inspiration, her drive, and how she fits in so much in so little time.

Taja Feistner. Photograph: Max Vom Hofe

I understand you were scouted to be a model while in your hometown Iowa. Did being a model ever cross your mind before that? Could you picture yourself in the position you are in today?
My mom actually got me into modelling when I was about six-years-old. I remember shooting for this Crayola Kids magazine. After that, I didn’t really think about modelling, though my mom did make me go to a couple scouting event things. Where I’m from a lot of these companies are just scamming money and offering no real opportunity. I never really considered it to be a career possibility or that I would end up where I am but I’m very thankful to be here.

Taja Feistner. Photograph: Max Vom Hofe

What inspired you to go back to university to study energy and sustainability?
It’s hard to exactly pinpoint the moment where I decided that that was what I really wanted to do. From a super-young age, I’ve been fascinated by animals and nature. I’ve always had this unavoidable compassion and empathy for innocent lives and a desire for morality and justice. I’ve always felt this need to be a protector of those that can’t protect themselves. Once I started questioning everything and figuring out the “behind the scenes” of society, I couldn’t bear to turn my head or sweep things under the rug. I really wanted to go back to school and study Sustainability so that when I use my voice to bring light to issues, it can be respected with the stamp of education that university provides.

Can you tell us a little more about how you started and your own sustainability fashion label?
It is still a work in progress that has taken tons of research and experimentation. It has really taught me how difficult it is to do high quantity production in a sustainable way. There are so few factories that use renewable energy and if I am going to claim something is sustainable then it has to be all the way from seed to seam. There are too many companies using “green” and “sustainable” labelling who seem to be taking advantage of it as a marketing ploy when their methods are hardly any better than conventional production.

I don’t say this to discourage consumers but rather to inspire more thought about the things you buy and the companies you support. We have to change the way we think about fashion in general. Fast fashion will never be 100 per cent sustainable. Right now I am focused on hand-making bespoke pieces that are made 100 per cent from recycled materials.

Taja Feistner. Photograph: Max Vom Hofe

How do you balance your passion for sustainability and your luxury fashion career? Do they ever contradict or complement one another?
It is a very big internal conflict which had a huge part in getting me back into school. Although I don’t always work for sustainable brands I justify my career by using the platform it has given me to inspire others to live more sustainably and by using the money I’ve made in a responsible way when it comes to the companies I support. Thankfully now more and more brands are developing their environmental consciousness and taking steps to reduce their impact. I actually shot my first campaign for a sustainable collection the other day for Mother of Pearl. I like to think optimistically about the changes that are happening in the industry. It really shows how as consumers our voices are heard and responded to.

Taja Feistner: Photograph: Max Vom Hofe

As someone who appreciates art and works in the fashion industry, what is your opinion in the on-going debate about whether fashion is an art form?
Fashion is absolutely a form of art or can be. There is obviously fashion that is designed for mass consumption or designed with very little inspiration or creativity. That isn’t art. But art will always exist somewhere in fashion with the daring and the innovative. I like to think of my sustainable fashion project as just an exploration of fabric as a medium. It all depends on the approach and the intentions of the designer really.

How would you define the word model? A lot of models in 2018 encompass acting, photography, and design within their career; can you see yourself doing the same?
I mean technically speaking a fashion model is just someone who can be moulded as a means to sell products. Many models are more than that. I have so many interests within and outside of fashion that I will continue to pursue whilst being a model.

Taja Feistner. Photograph: Max Vom Hofe

How do you find modelling while on set with photographer boyfriend Alexander Saladrigas?
It’s such a strange dynamic really! We’re both extremely professional when it comes to our work, so if you didn’t know us, you probably wouldn’t know that we’re dating until after the shoot ended. Alex is very much a director of his photos. He usually has a specific pose or scenario in mind for each shot. In the beginning, this was difficult for me to get used to because I usually wear the pants in the relationship (haha) and I learned to model with more fluid movements. He helped me grow a lot on and off set and he’s always respected my creativity and vision. When we’re working together, we’re always trying to push each other to create the most innovative thing we ever have because we both want the absolute best for each other.

Would you ever want to step behind the camera and try your hand at photography?
I always joke with Alex because I owned a film camera before him. I learned how to develop and print film when I was 15 and even helped Alex develop the first roll he processed at home. I love photography, always have always will, but I have no intention of being a professional photographer. It will however always be one of the artistic mediums I dabble in.

Taja Feistner. Photograph: Max Vom Hofe

In the past, you’ve described yourself as a vintage hoarder, what is your most prized possession and why?
I started hoarding vintage from about 14 and have had an online vintage shop since to try to justify my problem. I try not to get too attached to the things I collect because I do want them to find a home rather than gathering dust in my closet. If I had to choose my favourite piece right now, it would probably be this 1980s oversized belted leather jacket I found at a thrift shop in Paris for 30€. It’s one thing I could never give it up.

What has been your favourite moment in your career so far? What has been the greatest challenge in your career so far?
There are too many favourite moments to count and so much of this job has been challenging in different ways. But if I had to choose one, I’d say my most challenging and favourite moments are one in the same. That moment was working on the Nylon Farm film series for Prada. It was my first time working on a project that required acting skills with an actual speaking part. I learned more on that set than any other which made it both challenging and rewarding. I hope to put those new skills and my new love for acting to work again very soon.

Taja Feistner. Photograph: Max Von Hofe

What advice would you give to your 15-year-old-self?
There’s so much advice I would give myself at 15 if I could but I don’t think it’d help actually. I think I’d just tell myself “don’t change anything, everything will all turn out okay!”. You have to be patient with yourself and realise everything will come to you when the time is right for it too. All the clichés are true: everything happens for a reason; you’re stronger than you think; and so you have to just keep swimming!

Where do you see yourself in five years time?
My main goals over the next five years are: finish my degree, grow my sustainable fashion label – Eka Minetta, have an art exhibition, and explore my interest in acting.

Taja Feistner. Photograph: Max Von Hofe

by Lily Rimmer

Fashion Director: Katie Falstead

Photographer: Max Vom Hofe

Images first published in Glass issue 35 – Impact

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Hair: Peter Lux at The Wall Group using Bumble and Bumble

Make up: Natsumi Narita using MAC Cosmetics

Casting: Paul Isaac

Fashion assistant: Rosie Borgerhoff Mulder

Post-production: Retouch Studios

Model: Taja Feistner at Premier Model Management

Image one:

Full Look by CHANEL

Image two:

Full look by BOTTEGA VENETA

Image three: 

Full look by DIOR

Image four:

Outfit by LOUIS VUITTON

Ring on model’s far-right finger, right hand 18K White Gold Alliance Ring SHAMBALLA JEWELS

Other rings, NOOR FARES

Image five: 

Full look by MIUMIU

Image six: 

Full look by GIVENCHY

Image seven: 

Full look by SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO

Image eight:

Full look by GUCCI