Zoe Saldana leads the efforts to make this year's Oscars red carpet more sustainable
Traditionally, the red carpet has been somewhat slow to adopt sustainable practices, with most stars opting for custom-made gowns, or pieces straight off the catwalk that will only be worn once. But this year, the Oscars were awash with vintage, reworked and archival pieces, in a sign that pre-loved fashion really is becoming covetable – even in the upper echelons of Hollywood.
As part of its commitment to reducing its environmental impact and building a legacy of sustainability, this year, the Academy partnered with the global change-making organisation RCGD Global for the 2023 Oscars. The company, who we exclusively revealed had signed Zoe Saldaña as an ambassador alongside the American actresses Chloe East and Bailey Bass, produced a responsible style guide for the night.
"I'm committed to finding more ways to incorporate a sustainable presence within my fashion choices," Saldaña told us, ahead of her appearance on the Academy Awards red carpet. On the night, she sported a delicate Fendi gown, with vintage earrings and a ring from Cartier to complement her look.
Bailey Bass wore a Zac Posen custom couture gown, created using only four cuts of fabric, made from Tencel filament yarns derived from sustainably sourced wood. "It’s been an honour to dress Bailey Bass for her first Oscars in Collaboration with RCGD Global. It’s been very fulfilling to create a unique piece of art with true purpose,” said Posen.
Chloe East, meanwhile, wore a custom Monique Lhuillier dress, made from black Tencel and using reworked patterns and fabrics. A dramatic, elongated velvet bodice was reimagined from Lhuillier’s autumn/winter 2019 collection and paired with an architectural ball gown skirt.
“I created a dramatic, sculptural, modern ball gown using a vintage piece from my collection," said Lhuillier. "Sustainability is something I am passionate about without compromising design.”
They weren't the only celebrities committed to championing environmental progress at this year's awards. Cate Blanchett followed through on her promise to wear only pre-worn or reworked pieces during this awards season in a top from a never-before-seen archival Louis Vuitton collection and a skirt cut from sustainable silk, while Vanessa Hudgens was the picture of elegance in vintage Chanel.
Rooney Mara found her bridal-esque look in the Alexander McQueen archives, and Winnie Harlow stood out in a yellow dress from the Armani Privé spring/summer 2005 couture collection.
Sustainable fashion is making strides, with its adoption on perhaps the most hallowed of red carpets the ultimate sign that eco-conscious clothing is a style statement in itself. Below, we caught up with Samata Pattinson, RCGD’s global CEO and the dress code’s author, to discuss what an eco-friendly red carpet really looks like.
Tell us more about this year’s Oscars dress code: what sort of tips and recommendations did the style guide contain?
"Our Sustainable Style Guide provides an extensive collection of tips and recommendations to help readers build a more sustainable wardrobe, whether it be for the Oscars red carpet or everyday life. The aim of this guide is to make the journey towards a sustainable lifestyle easier and we do this through the use of common language rather than industry jargon. We want to provide easy tips, practical solutions and equip readers with information on what to look for."
Do you think the red carpet can ever truly be sustainable?
"While we recognise that there is no fully sustainable solution, our goal is to make red carpets, and the world, as sustainable as possible and ensure that everyone can see a way to connect with something that resonates. Sustainability in the design world is such a multifaceted topic. For some it is about values – whether [they are] vegan or supporting artisans or women-led businesses; for others it is about efficiency, so [they are considering] cost per wear and investing in items meant to last. For others, the message doesn’t matter, the aesthetic does – so we focus on beautiful solutions. We try to find something for everyone.
"It also encompasses more than just the tangible garments themselves, but also the world in which they are built – ensuring fair wages for garment workers, safe design processes and fair trade. Progress is being made towards more sustainable red carpets, but as long as sustainability is seen as all or nothing, we will have work to do."
What barriers do you think stand in the way of this?
"There are many barriers to contend with but I would say the biggest one is perception: the notion that design has to be sacrificed, that creativity has to be limited. Yes, red carpets are high-profile events that bring in international audiences, which can cause immense pressure [on all involved]. People want to look and feel their best, and there are entire teams involved. The point is, sustainability is not meant to be a barrier to creativity. It is an opportunity – which is why we focused on practical and accessible solutions and on pushing understanding further. Yes, it's about rewearing and wearing vintage, but it is also about spotlighting BIPOC designers and artisans, and challenging brands to step up. What people don’t say enough is how good it feels to be part of a more meaningful conversation."
Which designers do you think are making the most headway in sustainability at the moment?
"Different designers are doing well for different reasons. House of Amma is wonderful at storytelling, sourcing locally and designing clothes to be heirlooms. Mother of Pearl is actively trying to be the most sustainable fashion brand it can be and having open conversations. Patrick McDowell is pushing for the use of sustainable materials like Tencel. They all share something in common: they see sustainability as a constant dialogue and are honest about the challenges they face as part of their journey. Truth resonates with people."
Why is it so important to see sustainability represented on the red carpet?
"Seeing sustainable fashion on the red carpet is crucial. The sheer visibility of fashion [at events like the Oscars] ensures that messages regarding environmental and social issues will be far-reaching and impactful, especially if delivered through beautiful design that educates.
"I also think red-carpet fashion is the perfect way to exemplify that creativity is not compromised for sustainability – often it is amplified."
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