If you looked very closely at the red carpet at last Sunday’s Oscars, you might have noticed a bit of green—and we’re not talking about best actress nominee Viola Davis’s emerald frock. This was “green,” as in eco-friendly.
A handful of notables, including best actress nominee Meryl Streep and best supporting actor nominee Kenneth Branagh, chose to wear specifically eco-friendly fashions created especially for the Oscars ceremony. And when Streep, resplendent in a sweeping gold gown, accepted her Oscar, she became unofficially the first Academy Award winner to do so in a Lanvin custom-made, eco-friendly design—a first in the French fashion house’s 100-plus-year history.
Bringing the hot-button issues of environmentally sound and ethically produced apparel front and center on the red carpet awards circuit has been the mission the past three years of Livia Firth. The Italian-born, London-dwelling Firth has her hand in the eco apparel marketplace as the creative director of eco-age.com, an online shop and magazine featuring apparel, home accessories, and jewelry, including Firth’s own designs.
Perhaps more important are her red carpet credentials. As the wife of 2011 Academy Award winner Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”), she is a regular on the awards scene and in a position to make a statement. That she began to do three years ago when she agreed (blogging all the while for British vogue.com) to spearhead the Green Carpet Challenge (GCC), which calls for celebrities to use their visibility to promote fashion’s eco/ethics causes by only wearing sustainable and ethically produced garments to film-industry events.
The challenge was thrown her way in 2009 by eco author Lucie Siegle, who penned To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? At first a bit hesitant—she’d never wear plastic, Firth swears in a video—she turned up at this year’s Golden Globes in an exquisite custom Giorgio Armani gown fashioned from fibers spun from Northern Italian household plastic waste.
Since 2009, Firth has worn, among other eco wear, a dress made from the remnants of one of her husband’s suits, a dress made from garbage bin scraps from several fashion labels, and, for the 2011 Academy Awards, a dress “repurposed” from bits and pieces of 11 period thrift shop gowns from “The King’s Speech” era.
For this year’s Academy Awards, at which Colin Firth awarded Streep her Oscar, Livia went plastic again, wearing a corseted red “hybrid” Valentino gown that combined recycled PET polyester fabric with Valentino’s house silk sleeves. In addition to Streep, Firth recruited Branagh (Ermenegildo Zegna merino wool) and best actor nominee Demian Bichir (Zegna eco-friendly silk/superfine wool blend) to help spread the word. And Mr. Firth? He lofted the banner for recycling, wearing the same Tom Ford tuxedo he had worn the year before.
—Carol A. Crotta