What’s a supermodel to do when she’s reached the apex of the fashion industry early on in her two-decade (and counting) career, amassing more than 70 Vogue covers? In Natalia Vodianova’s case, she added angel investor to her CV, alongside her philanthropic commitments to the Naked Heart Foundation, which provides a support network for underprivileged and orphaned children in her home country of Russia and beyond.
Together with her business partner Timon Afinsky, the 38-year-old has backed several apps since 2015, with a particular interest in those that affect women and children’s health. The duo’s most successful ventures to date include Little Tummy, which provides affordable access to high-quality baby food; Elbi, a platform that helps people donate to charity on social media; and period tracker, Flo.
Now, at a time when our minds are increasingly anxious and distracted, Vodianova and Afinsky have launched Loóna, an app designed to get you in the mood for a decent night’s sleep. The brainchild of Andrew Yanchurevich, Dmitry Doryn, Sergey Gonchar and Eugene Nevgen (the latter two co-founded the now-defunct face-swap app MSQRD, bought by Facebook in 2016), Loóna recommends a nightly ‘sleepscape’, which combines activity-based relaxation techniques, such as colouring in, with visual and aural storytelling.
In time for the app’s launch, Vodianova gave Vogue a one-to-one demonstration and spoke candidly about motherhood, mental health and her next tech venture.
What has 2020 taught you, and how have you been looking after your mental health in this period of uncertainty?
“I’ve always been good at letting go. At the beginning of the year, everything looked so busy, charged and exciting. Then lockdown came, and for the next six months, everything was cancelled. I was at home with my family — that was the positive side. Like everyone, I feel stress and anxiety about the future, even the day-to-day. No one knows how bad this virus is going to get.
“Sometimes cancelling one event or saying no to something feels like the hardest thing to do because everyone tells you it’s important. Ultimately, I’ve learned there are other ways to address these needs and opportunities, and I don’t need to travel as much. I can be just as effective working from home, close to my family, in Paris.”
Have you reaffirmed any existing passions or developed any new ones during lockdown?
“I hadn’t cooked for maybe 15 years when Covid-19 hit. Although I wouldn’t describe it as a passion, I started cooking from the age of six and I’m not bad at it. I’m comfortable in the kitchen and I feel deeply purposeful when I cook for my family as I was every day during lockdown — it’s beautiful when they need you in that way.
“Sport and movement are vital for me whether it be walking, hiking, Pilates, yoga or sometimes the gym. I love biking around the city with my children and being outside in nature. My 14-year-old daughter Neva has my bug for walking — she’s disciplined and will wake up 45 minutes earlier so she can walk to school.”
How does your modelling career complement your work as an angel investor?
“The fact that I’m a model helps [with investing] because I have first-hand insights from the fashion industry and its needs. For example, I’m investing in [augmented reality] try-on apps such as Voir. Now that we live in a time when people can’t go into physical stores as much, [this technology will be] even more useful.”
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Hello Loóna Family, 🌙 Welcome to the new Featured Chapter – All the bright colors 🍂 We believe that Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons. We’ve carefully selected fallen leaves, pumpkin seeds 🎃, cozy evenings, cups of tea, books 📚, and stories untold and put them into the Fall Special – episodes dedicated to the golden glory of this mellow time of the year. At the end of the day, everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn 🍁
What will people experience when they use your latest venture Loóna?
“Loóna is made for people like me. When I’m at my busiest, I find it hard to sit down and meditate. A calm voice guides you through meditation so you don’t have to think too much, but at the same time, you feel a sense of accomplishment. It invites you to colour in a beautiful sleepscape and tells you a story, gently occupying your mind so you can escape into the world of sleep.”
Why was Loóna the right opportunity for you as an angel investor?
“Every once in a while I have trouble sleeping, often before a big shoot or event — exactly when I need to get a good night’s rest — but usually, I get at least seven hours. A lot of people around me, including my husband Antoine [Arnault, the CEO of Berluti], find it hard to sleep. He’ll wake up five or more times a night. Sleep is vital for maintaining a healthy body and mind. They say that you are what you eat, but we are as good as the quality of our sleep. When the guys pitched Loóna to me, I thought, ‘This can really help to improve people’s quality of life.’”
How does Loóna differ from other sleep apps in the market?
“It’s unique in that it taps into many senses and feelings at once — visuals, sound, relaxation, satisfaction. There’s also only one sleepscape to colour in, so for those who feel the constant need to do more, there isn’t that option. You have to think in advance that you are working your mind towards calming down and being ready to sleep.”
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Welcome Immersive stories! 🌙 Dear Loóna Family, you asked about bringing more Loóna moments into your bedtime routine and we heard you 💜 We are expanding our universe for you by creating new unique format — sleepstories. Now, before going to bed, you can completely immerse yourself into the worlds from our sleepscapes: listen to the whispering wind💨, enjoy the enveloping sound of fallen leaves under your feet🍂, be spellbound with the atmosphere of comfort and presence in the moment 🌌 Revisit your favourite episodes and re-discover the world of Loóna. Good night, dear friends! 🌙
Which apps do you enjoy using?
“Neva and I both love eating macaroons so we’re going to learn how to make them. I found the classes on an app called Get Your Guide (I’m not an investor), which enables you to book different experiences anywhere in the world.”
How do you personally maintain a healthy balanced relationship with technology?
“Technology isn’t always good for our mental health. Endlessly scrolling through Instagram because we’re stuck at home and think we need an injection of socialising — there’s not much to gain from it, and it certainly won’t help you sleep. For that reason, I try to switch my phone off at 9pm. It doesn’t always work, but when I do I feel calmer before bed. I reach for a book or play chess with Antoine. We’re watching less Netflix, but when we do we opt for a documentary to avoid that empty feeling.
“I’m trying to be more aware of wasting time on technology in general — I’d rather create experiences and memories that I will treasure. It’s easy to become oversaturated with information and subscribe to what is suggested to us on email, social media and through friends. I feel rude if I haven’t watched a programme someone’s recommended to me the next time I see them. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves so it’s about making conscious decisions and learning to say ‘no’.”
Loóna aside, have you got other tech ventures on the horizon?
“With my business partner Timon, and Sergey and Eugene, who are also behind Loóna, I’m launching a platform called Locals, which is about creating unique yet simple experiences. For example, I love picking mushrooms, so I’ll create a mushroom-picking event in and around Paris, and people can bid for it. Anyone can post the experiences, anyone can bid for them and the money raised will go to charity.”
Loóna is available on iOS, Android and in the Google Play app stores.