Sustainability On The Red Carpet? Here Are The Celebrities Championing It

A look at how the fight against climate change is taking over the red carpet, and the celebrities who are pledging allegiance to the cause.

The purpose of a red carpet moment is to make a statement. But is that statement just about the sartorial prowess of the celebrity in question—a mere tool to land them a spot on coveted best-dressed lists? Not anymore. Today, every opportunity is a potential platform to partake in important conversations that shape the zeitgeist of our times. So where better than an all-eyes-on-you red carpet to showcase your values. With a dress? Absolutely; fashion is about storytelling after all. And the leitmotif winning continued starry favour right now is sustainability. Several celebrities are rallying behind conscious fashion with their red carpet stints; be it by way of the materials used to craft their ensembles or by making the old new again with vintage and previously-worn pieces.

Most recently, Zendaya wore a vintage Saint Laurent Haute Couture look from 1982 to Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood awards. The outfit also served as an homage to its original owner, publishing magnate Eunice Johnson, and was picked out of star’s stylist Law Roach’s personal archive. And then there was Priyanka Chopra Jonas for the BAFTAs, also dressed by Roach. For the occasion, the actor chose a Ronald van der Kemp gown from the Fall 2020 couture collection, made using repurposed materials and archival pieces from his previous seasons. 

For the second time in a row this year, Red Carpet Green Dress and TENCEL collaborated with the Academy Awards to create a range of eco-couture materials. Actor Marlee Matlin (also a presenter at the event) wore a custom-made Vivienne Westwood gown made from vegan textile partly created from Tencel’s luxe filament yarn as well as archival fabric from the design house. Last year, the same initiative partnered with Louis Vuitton to create a ‘sustainable gowns’ for Léa Seydoux and Kaitlyn Dever.

Bringing sustainability and the re-wear mandate to the red carpet gathered particular momentum on the award circuit last year—Jennifer Aniston wore a Dior gown circa spring/summer ’99 for the SAGs, Maggie Rogers chose a pre-fall 2014 Chanel dress with a matching reusable water bottle for the Grammys, and Joaquin Phoenix wore the same tuxedo by ethical fashion crusader Stella McCartney for the whole season. The BAFTAs even gave all their invitees a sustainable fashion guide, created by the London College of Fashion, as part of its sustainability efforts. For the Oscars last year, Saoirse Ronan’s Gucci gown featured black fabric that was upcycled from her BAFTAs dress. Margot Robbie and Penelope Cruz turned up for the event in vintage Chanel while Kim Kardashian went with vintage Alexander McQueen for the Vanity Fair after party.

“Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the huge amount of waste in our industry and how much change needs to happen. But I always come back to this: If each one of us just does what we can do, extraordinary things can happen,” Elizabeth Stewart, stylist to avid re-wearer Cate Blanchett told Vogue India. “Choose brands that are actively working towards more sustainable manufacturing in the materials they use—like water and raw materials, as well as maintaining ethical practices toward their workers. One can also look for fashion made from recycled materials or fabrics that are solving waste from containers and food consumption. Re-wearing, of course, extends the life cycle of already produced and purchased clothing,” she adds. Her muse Blanchett is an adequate poster girl for the latter school of thought—the award-winning actor has never shied away from repeating looks on the red carpet, such as when she famously re-wore her Esteban Cortazar and Alexander McQueen looks at The Venice Film Festival last year. “IT’S CHIC TO REPEAT! #CateBlanchett has decided to rewear some of her most cherished looks at this year’s Venice Film Festival(…). In her words, Beautiful things can come out of sustainability!” Stewart posted on Instagram when unveiling said looks.

Another example-setting star is Emma Watson, who Vogue US has called ‘Hollywood’s queen of ethical dressing’. The 31-year-old icon started to champion sustainable and vintage looks early on… as early as 2009 when she wore a vintage Ossie Clark Watson to premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Her red carpet repertoire is populated with eco- and socially-conscious labels like Behno and Kitx. For the Met Gala in 2016, she was seen in a Calvin Klein look created with fabric made from recycled plastic bottles, while at the Beauty and the Beast Paris premiere, she wore custom Louis Vuitton made using Newlife polyester that, once again, utilised used plastic bottles.

Of course, the red carpet’s green turn isn’t without its naysayers. There is ample chatter about green washing; and the industry’s attempts being labelled as bare minimum or PR tropes. Can more be done? Always. But does that diminish the efforts being made? It shouldn’t. Ultimately, when a celebrity turns up to a headline-grabbing event in a mindfully chosen dress, it’s really about the messaging. In this case, the right one. It fuels more conversations on thoughtful choices, and making every sartorial opportunity count. And considering the monumental impact celebrity fashion choices tend to have on their followers the world over, one photo-op immediately speaks to a very global demographic. And therein lies the power of clothes. No pressure.



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