The Red Carpet has been long known as a spectacle for fashion, but as platforms have grown and accessibility booms, celebrities are using their spotlight to highlight some of the most important issues in society. Today, we look at the five of the most powerful Red Carpet moments and their underlying messages.
1. Joaquin Phoenix, an icon for sustainability
Joaquin Phoenix is famous for his environmental activism and passion for animal liberation. He used his platform at the Oscars to voice his views in an effort to encourage others to adopt a vegan diet in order to live more sustainably, crucial to mitigating climate change. As well as using his acceptance speech as a platform, he ensured his outfit too made a statement. At the 2020 awards ceremony Joaquin Phoenix wore a Stella McCartney tuxedo that he pledged to wear for the entire awards season. Stella McCartney too have become increasingly environmentally conscious. In doing so, Joaquin was committing to a more sustainable lifestyle, recognising the impacts of fast fashion on our planet. Wearing the same tuxedo throughout the awards season, demonstrated that outfits do not have to be single use, one of the biggest causes for a surging demand in fast fashion.
2. Natalie Portman, a voice for women
Natalie Portman dominated headlines following her appearance at the 2020 Oscars after she showcased a black Dior cape that listed the names of female directors that had not received an Oscar nomination. The cape highlighted the lack of equality in the industry and drew attention to incredible female directors, including Lulu Wang. The category of best director saw only male nominees. Despite the important issue Natalie Portman was addressing, some critics argued she has a big enough platform to do to more than use fashion as activism. Rose McGowen felt there was an element of hypocrisy, as Portman’s production company had only hired one female director, who was in fact herself. Nevertheless, the cape that credited female directors did what it set out to do and made headlines, it got people talking. Whether it was the best way to honour female directors or not is up to you, but it most definitely called attention to inequality in the industry, exemplifying the role of Red Carpet fashion.
3. The Weeknd deconstructs the beauty standard
Following his release of the album After Hours, The Weeknd has made many appearances wearing face bandages and special effects makeup to replicate bruising. He maintained this image at the VMA’s, where he had ditched the bandages to showcase the bruising on his face. The Weeknd was shining light on an important issue, perhaps less obvious than climate change or Black Lives Matter, but nonetheless extremely prominent in today’s society. The imperfections on The Weeknd’s face aimed to reflect on the damaging culture that leads people to change themselves for superficial reasons and to please others. It suggests that there is much more to life than one’s physical appearance. Social media has contributed enormously to todays ‘beauty standard’, making it refreshing to see a celebrity not comply.
4. Jennifer Aniston goes vintage
Jennifer Aniston most definitely turned heads when she stunned in vintage Dior at the 2020 SAG awards. The white, silk gown was part of Galliano’s spring/summer 1999 collection and Jennifer Aniston wearing it was most certainly a nod towards slow fashion. It reiterated the point that even for major award shows, there is no need to always make a new piece in order to stand out. Seeing vintage look as gorgeous as many tailor made dresses, will only help encourage other celebrities to take a similar stance. Overall, Jennifer’s outfit showcased the beauty of a timeless dress and made second hand the new Red Carpet spectacle.
5. Sandra Oh in solidarity with Black Lives Matter
Lastly, the topic of making a statement on the Red Carpet cannot be discussed without reference to Black Lives Matter. The global impact of COVID-19 meant that in the past year some Red Carpet events went digital. Although celebrities were not walking the actual Red Carpet, many still utilised their online platforms to vocalise their views, using fashion. The death of George Floyd was just one of many incidents that illustrated the ongoing battle with racial inequality and police brutality and the summer of 2020 saw overwhelming support for Black Lives Matter. The Emmy Awards went digital for 2020 and Sandra Oh, famous for her role in Killing Eve, used her outfit to pay a touching tribute. Her bomber jacket read in Korean, “Black Lives Are Precious”. Not only was she expressing support for the Black community, but the use of Korean was also a tribute to her own heritage. As 2020 saw the world go online, Sandra’s outfit was arguably more accessible and credited than ever, demonstrating that even without a physical Red Carpet, important points can be made using fashion.
The future of the Red Carpet
These five examples illustrate fashion’s role in voicing such important issues such as sustainability, gender equality, beauty standards and Black Lives Matter. The media attention and publicity surrounding the Red Carpet makes it an ideal place for celebrities to maximise their platform, especially as outfits with a message often attract significant attention. Social media has played a massive role in the growing interest of the Red Carpet as celebrities are more exposed to criticism if they do not use their platforms effectively. Of course, the Red Carpet will undoubtedly remain a predominantly centred fashion spectacle but as social media platforms have given celebrities more responsibility to speak up on such important issues, the Red Carpet will only get more political.