The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus star was devastated after learning how thousands of children are forced to harvest cotton crops in countries such as Uzbekistan and India.
And the shocking statistics prompted the Brit to try and raise awareness of environmental issues in the fashion industry.
Cole recalls, “I’m going to sound like such a hippie, but I’d always been a city girl and, when I was 16, went on a trip to the north of Japan. There were beautiful mountains and 1,000-year-old trees. I met a mountain worshipper – a Shintoist, I think – and after speaking to him, it all made complete sense.
“Since then, the Environmental Justice Foundation has opened my eyes. Four years ago, they showed me a report on cotton farming. I had thought the problem was just sweatshops. I cried when I read it.”
Cole has since launched the North Circular, an ethical knitwear business which donates five per cent of profits to the Environmental Justice Foundation.
She adds, “I set (the brand) up with two friends. They run it day to day, but I’m still involved, particularly with promoting it. It’s only been going a few years, but it’s working… I like (ethical fashion) in the same way that I like to think that my soap and food are properly made. If my hat’s knitted by a lovely woman in England, that becomes quite important. It makes me feel better about it.”