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PEOPLE

Take five: Meet our campaign stars

In our latest interview, we spend five minutes with the four stars from our latest campaign to ask them about everything from 2020 dress codes to the ways in which we can all give back this season – and beyond.

People: Take five with our campaign stars

If there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s the power of community. That’s why, this festive season, we’re putting the spotlight on members of the COS family who are making a positive change and working towards a better future. From ecologist Zinnia Kumar and social activist Ben Hurst to founder of community football program Asha Mohamud and biodynamic farmer Alfie Nickerson, we caught up with the stars from our latest campaign about what they've been working on, the challenges of this year and how we can all ‘do good’ and give back this season – and beyond…

‘I think a culture of compassion, positivity and small acts of kindness is the best thing you can give this season.’

– Zinnia Kumar, Ecologist

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ZINNIA KUMAR, ECOLOGIST
Born in Sydney but now happily settled in London, Zinnia describes herself as ‘in one word: a polymath’. She is a model, a CIEMM accredited ecologist, a published human evolutionary psychologist, an empowerment speaker, a humanitarian worker, the founder of the social responsibility, sustainability and representation consultancy, The Dotted Line, and a conservation biologist – which isn’t surprising given she was ‘addicted to David Attenborough documentaries at the age of four.’

What are you working on at the moment?
‘I’m working on a feature documentary based on my findings on colourism and the disempowerment of women. Alongside that, I’m writing a book which re-examines, deconstructs & decolonises beauty – I hope it will inspire people to realize that restrictive beauty ideals are simply constructs designed to exploit our deepest fears of ostracism.’

How has 2020 changed the way you dress?
‘I’ve always been a minimalist – so that part has not changed. But now I prefer to purchase pieces that are sustainably made or ‘forever pieces’ that will last a long time.’

In the spirit of giving, what ways can we all ‘do good’ and give back this season – and beyond?
‘A smile to a stranger, a compliment to your mum, giving a present to your friend, telling the people around you how much you appreciate them will go a long way – I think a culture of compassion, positivity and small acts of kindness is the best thing you can give this season.’

What advice would you give someone wanting to advocate sustainability or become an activist?
‘Each and every one of us is an advocate and we all have things we are passionate about. It’s OK to start small. The pain point of advocacy is to raise awareness. Start conversations which contribute to wider discussions, which will eventually lead to social change. A single voice is powerful.’

What does a better future look like to you?
‘One where nature and humanity live in respectful, sustainable harmony away from the destructive reigns of consumptive capitalism.’

QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS

Which actor would play you in the movie of your life?
‘Me. If not, then maybe Christoph Waltz…’

Where do you go to escape? 
‘In my head or nature.’

What do you collect?
‘Coins and a rock from every mountain I’ve been on.’

Strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
‘Crickets, in Thailand. They’re surprisingly good – except when I got a few legs stuck between my teeth and couldn’t get them out…’

If you could share a message with your younger/older self, what would you say?
‘Don’t worry, everything sorts itself out. Just keep your mind open.’


BEN HURST, SOCIAL ACTIVIST
As the head of facilitation and training at The Good Lad initiative, Ben’s work looks at challenging traditionally toxic forms of masculinity. Focusing on gender equality, the organisation works with men of all ages. ‘Most of my work falls within the realm of facilitating tough conversations’ he says. A Londoner born and bred, he lives in Ilford where he grew up with family and friends only a few roads apart. ‘It’s not the most glamorous of places,’ Ben admits. ‘But it was nice to feel like I lived in a real community.’

What are you working on at the moment?
‘I have a TEDx talk coming up on allyship with my friend Jamie Windust. We’ll bit sitting down to chat with each other about the misconceptions that surround our work, amongst other things. I’m also releasing a podcast called Climate Curious with TEDx London. So, if you’re like me and know nothing about climate change, it’s worth tuning in to!’

What are you looking forward to next year?
‘I’m really looking forward to seeing my friends – without having to think about it. I’m also hoping that we get to hear music at festivals again. I know the landscape for creatives has been shifted so drastically, so I really hope that industry gets back on its feet!’

How has 2020 changed the way you dress?
‘Comfort is paramount. So now, I’m all about the sweats and dressing gowns – but still making it fashionable!’

What does a better future look like to you?
‘It looks like a world where we have conversations about race, class, gender, sexuality, climate change and all of the other stuff that impacts everyone, daily. And it doesn’t seem too far off – more and more people are starting to engage in these conversations every day.’

Coats & Jackets

QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS

Your proudest achievement?
‘Completing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch over lockdown.’

Your first album purchase? 
‘S Club by S Club 7.’

The last thing you googled… 
‘How to spell ‘trier’, as in the phrase, God loves a trier.’

Which actor would play you in the movie of your life? 
‘Morgan Freeman – and Jaden Smith as a younger me.’

If you could share a message with your younger/older self, what would you say?
‘Chill out and don’t worry too much about the future. It starts to make sense later so just try to enjoy this bit and spend more time doing what you want.’


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ASHA MOHAMUD, ACTIVIST
Born in Kenya and raised in West London, Asha has devoted her life to helping the less fortunate. A self-confessed ‘hard-working, dedicated and creative individual’, she founded – and oversees – community football program, Really Real, which benefits underprivileged children between the ages of five and 15. A dedicated advocate for mental health, Asha utilises her social media platforms to share her own stories with the hopes of reaching those who may be having similar experiences.

What are you working on at the moment?
‘I am currently focusing on a few projects to support the mental and physical wellbeing of BAME people in my community. I have also been working on some really exciting fashion projects including campaigns, editorials and content shoots.’

This year has been a challenge for many reasons. How would you encourage others that are interested in doing what you do?
‘This year has made people realize that you have to be in love with what you’re doing because there’s no guarantee of anything. I would say there is nothing more powerful than fully enjoying what you do for a living.’

How has 2020 changed the way you dress?
‘it has allowed me to fully dive into comfort dressing. Tracksuits, leggings and oversized hoodies have been the highlight of my 2020 styling code.’

In the spirit of giving, what ways can we all ‘do good’ and give back this season – and beyond?
‘Being considerate, kind, compassionate. Everyone needs a little bit of kindness this season.’

QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS

Your proudest achievement?
‘Receiving the rising star award from the FA for my community organisation in front of 80,000 people in Wembley stadium.’

Your first album purchase?
‘Sasha fierce by Beyoncé.’

What’s your style signifier? 
‘Oversized everything.’

Where do you go to escape?
‘Roller skating.’

If you could share a message with your younger/older self, what would you say?
‘Allow yourself to feel your emotions without trying to justify them to anyone, not even yourself.’


ALFIE NICKERSON, BIODYNAMIC FARMER & GARDENER
Alfie is biodynamic farmer – which means he works with the moon cycle to influence his plants without the use of fertilisers or pesticides. He currently spends his time between London – where he has been a gardener for six years – and Norfolk. But it’s the East Anglian coastal town where he feels most at home. ‘I’ve always been keen to explore the north Norfolk coast,’ Alfie says. ‘I would rather be here than on holiday in the Caribbean.’

What are you working on at the moment?
‘I’m currently starting up a biodynamic flower farm, Burntfen Flowers, which I've been working on since before lockdown. I’m mainly getting it ready for next year, so I’ve been planting thousands of bulbs to have in the early spring.’

In the spirit of giving, what ways can we all ‘do good’ and give back this season – and beyond?
‘I think we are slowly starting to realize the damages on the earth from commercial farming and I believe we can all pull together to start supporting local businesses – which will also benefit the world we live in.’

What are you looking forward to next year?
‘Being able to go and see the gardens which I would have loved to have done this year. I’m also looking forward to expanding Burntfen Flowers and trying to grow lots of different of flowers and vegetables and become more knowledgeable in horticulture.’

This year has been a challenge for many reasons. How would you encourage others that are interested in doing what you do?
‘It’s all about making the time. Most people have the idea that they want to spend more time outside and try to grow vegetables and flowers, but often become lazy after a day at work. I think a lot of people this year have given it a go, so now it’s important to not stop!’

How has 2020 changed the way you dress?
‘My style hasn't changed. Most of my clothes become completely unrecognisable after a couple of weeks, so I try and keep them for as long as possible.’

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QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS

Strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
‘Squirrel’s balls.’

Your first album purchase?
‘Dreams by Fleetwood Mac.’

The last thing you googled...
‘Back stage passes to a WWE event.’

Which actor would play you in the movie of your life?
‘Brad Pitt.’

What do you collect?
‘Pokémon cards.’


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