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Petra Nemcova: The fashion industry is socially conscious now

Petra Nemcova: The fashion industry is socially conscious now

Petra Nemcova believes the fashion industry is now more "socially conscious" than it used to be.

The 37-year-old supermodel survived the tsunami that hit Thailand in 2005 killing 280,000 people, including her fiancé Simon Atlee.

Petra was lucky to live through the catastrophic event and her brush with death changed her entire outlook on life and inspired her to create her charity Happy Hearts Fund, which builds schools in areas affected by natural disasters.

Initially, Petra's experience cost her work because fashion houses were wary of looking as though they were "piggybacking" on the tragedy but now, 11 years on, she sees a lot of positive action in the business.

The Czech catwalk beauty said: "After the tsunami, a lot of brands didn't want to work with me because it was sensitive. They didn't want to look like they were piggybacking on that disaster or being opportunistic. But now, brands are more socially conscious than a decade ago. A lot of them have some kind of CSR, so they look for people who are aligned with the values they have. The fashion industry has changed and now when people look for (brand ambassadors), they seek those who have either good values or more dimensions than just fashion."

When she started the Happy Hearts Fund, Petra made the decision to stop stripping off for more risqué shoots because she wanted her charity to be taken seriously.

Although in the short-term Petra lost money, in the long-term her career choice was the right thing to do.

Speaking to Prestige Hong Kong magazine, she explained: "It was a decision I made myself. My priority was HHF so I knew I had to take certain steps to create success. It was a risky decision because a lot of my earnings were coming from swimsuit [shoots] and sexier things - my career was built on Sports Illustrated and all that, so it was taking a big chunk of my work away. But I knew it was the right thing to do at that time and it did create the impact that I knew it would. People took me a lot more seriously and there was a lot more understanding that charity was not my side project; it was my focus, so the decision did serve its purpose ... My friends would say it was not the smartest decision, but in my eyes, it was the right one. It was not about me, it was about the bigger goal to help as many children as possible."