What comes to mind when you hear the words ‘red’ and ‘carpet’? Personally, my brain floods with images of perfectly-pruned smiling celebrities, cameras, consumerism, unimaginable wealth and polluting garments which, themselves, pollute the fast-fashion industry. So, nothing too wholesome- perhaps I’m just being a cynic?
Climate change, COVID-19, and criticism
It’s challenging not to give into eco-grief and scepticism when the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter today. We are as far away from reaching our no-more-than-1.5-degrees-warming target (2050 IPCC) than I am from affording a single one of those dresses displayed on said red carpet. Bad jokes aside- the climate crisis makes it hard to be optimistic about a sustainable future for fashion.
However, recently these notions of fear are being addressed as the red carpet is becoming green, with an emphasis on sustainability. 2020’s short- but sweet- Oscars and BAFTAs gave the world a glimmer (excuse the pun) of hope. COVID-19 has certainly brought to light the immense parallels between those who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and those who are most likely to suffer from disease outbreaks. Particularly post-pandemic, we need a wholly more environmentally conscious ‘green’ red carpet.
How are the events already setting a ‘green’ scene?
Let’s start by looking at the events themselves. Global Green USA has been gathering celebrities at the pre-Oscar Party in an attempt to raise awareness about environmental sustainability for over a decade, and 2020 was no different. The whole party was green: it was zero-waste; celebrities arrived in eco-friendly electric vehicles; and were served from an all-organic menu for dinner. The centre-piece, the green carpet itself, was constructed from ECONYL nylon yarn. The yarn was composed of abandoned fishing nets and other marine plastic. At the BAFTAs themselves, plastic bottles were banned and plant-based meals were dished up to attendees. Sustainability was really a buzzword for the organisers.
Vintage frocks rock
2020’s designers and celebrities embraced the creativity that sustainable innovation demands. Costume designer, Arianne Phillips, wore a repurposed Moschino dress which she originally wore to the 2012 Oscars. Margot Robbie displayed a breath-taking 1990s vintage Chanel couture piece to the Oscars. Even Kim Kardashian did her bit by championing a poetically nostalgic McQueen gown. Despite, perhaps, the moral criticism that these individuals may endure otherwise, Samantha Pattinson, CEO of the Red Carpet Green Dress, said that re-wearing a garment or choosing to wear a responsibly sourced outfit sends the message that “I don’t feel the need to keep up with consumerism… and I’m so in love with this piece… that I want to tell its story again”.
“I don’t feel the need to keep up with consumerism….and I’m so in love with this piece… that I want to tell its story again”Samantha Pattinson, CEO of Red Carpet Green Dress.
Red Carpet Green Dress (RCGD) is a women-led, solution-focused organisation who work with the Annual Academy Awards. Book Smart Actor, Kaitlyn Dever, wore a 100% sustainable Louis Vuitton dress in collaboration with RCGD. The organisation work with global and small independent brands to promote circular design and the use of regenerative materials. RCGD also work in close alliance with environmental charities, such as Greenpeace, to be part of a progressive conversation.
The BAFTAs had an eco-friendly dress code
The 2020 BAFTAs ceremony had an eco-friendly dress code that encouraged celebrities to seek out sustainable brands, wear pre-loved gowns, and showcase the best of green design on a global stage. Disappointingly, not all celebrities adhered to said dress code. However, Little Women nominee Saoirse Ronan stood out in repurposed black satin gown from the 2012 BAFTAs award ceremony. It showcased a V-neck bodice as part of an opulent ruffled Gucci gown. Even the original 2012 satin dress was made from wholly sustainable fabric. A Gucci gown isn’t fast fashion- but even designer frocks fuel the fast-fashion industry by encouraging a single-use culture.
Lessons from the pandemic
But this still begs the questions- what does this mean? Is this ‘progress’ just an attempt at ‘greenwashing’? And what good does a rich, privileged celebrity championing sustainability actually do? In reality, only a very small amount of greenhouse gas emissions are saved by a few people wearing greener dresses. However, eco-friendly looks are a lot more about the message than the actual carbon dioxide emissions prevented. When, during the pandemic, two of the biggest fashion manufacturers- Italy and China- were forced to halt in March to flatten the infection curve, they both saw their bi-product waste and carbon dioxide emissions plummet. According to Climate Brief, China’s overall emissions dropped by a quarter and Venice’s canals became clear enough to see fish swimming in them once again. As we make our way through a recession, consumers are given two options. Either they stick to buying cheap, toxic, flimsy fast-fashion pieces, or they start to re-wear, repurpose, and purchase fewer items. The pandemic has slapped us across the face to expose societies’ unsavoury workings- celebrities and consumers must acknowledge their positionality in this mess.
Red carpet events have the power for positive change
In the past, red carpet events have been so influential in encouraging toxic beauty standards, reinforcing misrepresentation, and driving consumer culture. Therefore, the red carpet has the power to send out a more positive message. Perhaps it’s time for a new award- an award that commends individuals for excelling in creative, sustainable fashion innovation. 2020’s events provided hope, but the red carpet still demands a shake-up. It needs a future-proof message- one of sustainable fashion, and thinking, and living with a conscience. We need a green red carpet now.