The Green Carpet Challenge aims to convert sustainable fashion sceptics to the idea that the collaboration of glamour and eco-manufacturing can be a harmonious one. It was started by Livia Firth, who sought to bring about change through the medium of fashion. “I started it as an ‘exercise’ during the Single Man awards season in 2010”, she explained, “I wanted to use the fact that I was going to be walking those red carpets next to Colin to campaign about environmental and social justice issues through my gown.”
Since then the ‘Challenge’ has grown and by using celebrities to showcase these creations at high profile events, it brings sustainable fashion out of a small sphere of influence and into the mainstream, engaging the everyday consumer with the issues and challenging their perceptions of how fashion can be created.
The international awards season is always an important time for the Green Carpet Challenge and A-list celebrities have risen to the challenge, including Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett and Cameron Diaz at events from Cannes Film Festival to the Met Gala. These exquisite collaborations are an important opportunity to demonstrate that designers can create pieces where ethics and aesthetics co-exist. Cate Blanchett chose to adorn Chopard jewellery, where diamonds and gold are sustainably mined, whilst Cameron Diaz wore an organic silk dress by Stella McCartney and Meryl Streep wore a full-length gold dress by Lanvin that was made from eco-certified fabrics. More recently, in 2016, Emma Watson, Margot Robbie and Lupita Nyong’o showcased designs by Calvin Klein that followed the GCC Principles of Excellence.
Emma Watson’s dress was made from three different fabrics, woven from yarns made from recycled plastic bottles and demonstrated that innovation really is at the forefront of fashion, and as Watson wrote on her Facebook page, “…it proves the power that creativity, technology and fashion can have together.”
The Green Carpet Capsule Collection
As a result of these celebrity endorsements, the Green Carpet Challenge has become a powerful brand in its own right and 2013 saw the creation of the first Green Carpet Capsule Collection, starting with five leading British designers, who were personally hand picked by Anna Wintour and Livia Firth in 2013: Christopher Bailey of Burberry, Christopher Kane, Erdem, Roland Mouret and Victoria Beckham. The collection required the designers to create items that epitomised glamour whilst being desirable to the most radical of eco-fashion activists.
These sustainable looks sold out on Net-a-Porter with an endorsement from Emma Watson, who has long been a supporter of ethical fashion. When being interviewed for the site whilst modelling the collection, she spoke out against unethical practices stating, ‘We don’t support slave labour in this country, so we shouldn’t support those conditions in other countries. I can’t wrap my head around why ethical clothing is a speciality and not a base standard’. With such a powerful backing behind the capsule collection, it really propelled Eco-Age and their Green Carpet Challenge into the limelight, allowing ethically produced and sustainably sourced fashion to shine. What is more, it furthered Livia Firth’s ultimate goal, which is to communicate how fashion is produced and change the way people consumer it.
GCC® Brand Mark
2013 was a big year for the Green Carpet Challenge and alongside the collection Eco-Age introduced the GCC® Brand Mark which encourages best practice. It was launched in collaboration with Gucci to expose a new level of ambition within sustainability with the world’s first zero deforestation certified bags from Amazon leather to further promote sustainability performance.
The brand mark is awarded both to collections and individual products that align with the GCC Principles for Sustainable Excellence and a criterion that has been individually created for that project. Erdem is one such designer who has taken on this assignment, producing a collection that has been created using reused, surplus or sustainably certified materials, such as treated silk yarns and duchess satins that contained post-consumer plastic bottles, in 2015. He enthused about the project and stated that he loved ‘exploring new materials so it was an opportunity to do so in the realm of sustainable fabrics’ whilst Firth was recorded saying that she loves Erdem and that ‘when you buy an Erdem outfit you keep it forever. That is, in itself, sustainable, no?’
What Role Does Livia Firth Have To Play?
“I love to think of each red carpet opportunity as a sustainability project in itself” Livia Firth.
Livia Firth has become somewhat synonymous with ethical fashion, and whilst celebrity support has been vital to the Green Carpet Challenge, Firth’s individual character has played an important role in creating its success. She has leveraged her status to help create a powerful platform on which issues regarding social responsibility and sustainability in fashion can be expressed. Whilst the Green Carpet Challenge might be a creation in order to engage other A-list celebrities to showcase ‘green’ designs, however Firth plays a key role on the red carpets as well. Over the years she has attended numerous events and made sure to make a sustainable statement with her style in order to get people to talk about the campaign. For the first Green Carpet Challenge, she turned up to the Golden Globes in 2010 wearing a repurposed Christiana Couture dress. Most recently, at the 2017 Met Gala, she donned a silver dress made from Piñatex, a leather alternative, made from pineapple leaves. These leaves are a by-product of the pineapple harvest in the Philippines, an environmentally friendly and economically sound alternative, that provides a new additional income for farmers.
Livia Firth has also used the Green Carpet Challenge to communicate her #30wears pledge, a relatable message to engage the mainstream with the dangers of ‘fast fashion’. It is a pledge that encourages consumers to invest in pieces and cherish them rather than wear them once and discard them. At Cannes 2016, her pale pink lace Stella McCartney gown was part of her pledge, whilst her husband Colin Firth re-wore his classic Tom Ford tuxedo. The hope is that by continually championing both innovation in the fashion industry and longevity of individual items, she will garner the support of other A-list celebrities, brands and consumers alike and the result will be a continual shift towards ethically produced and sustainably sourced products that are re-used time and time again.
All Photos: © Eco-Age
Charlotte Horler is an Outreach Executive and occasional Volunteer Stylist for a charity based in the UK. They uses second hand and surplus clothing to help empower women through employment. In her spare time, she is undertaking online courses in Ethics, Sustainability and Responsibility whilst starting up her own website and social media accounts under the name, An Ethical Guide, which focus on drawing attention to brands that are trying to create a positive impact in one way or another.