The Impact of Red Carpet Fashion on the Environment

According to the author of “Fashionopolis: Why What We Wear Matters,” while awards show gowns may exude glamour, they are commonly crafted using petrochemical-based fabrics. In light of this, she suggests five methods for achieving a more sustainable wardrobe in Hollywood. By incorporating sustainable materials such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, and Tencel into their attire, celebrities can reduce their environmental impact. Investing in quality, timeless pieces and re-wearing them on multiple occasions, as well as opting for rental services and thrifting, are also ways to promote sustainability in fashion.

The Impact of Red Carpet Fashion on the Environment

it is revealed that luxury brands often emphasize the painstaking effort involved in creating red-carpet outfits. For instance, the stunning strapless rose Valentino dress worn by Zendaya at the SAG Awards, styled by now-retired Law Roach, took a total of 1230 hours to make, involving 42 people in the process. The dress featured 190 hand-embroidered roses, with each rose requiring five hours of sewing. Valentino designer Pierpaolo Piccioli shared details of the outfit on his Instagram, highlighting the level of craftsmanship involved in its creation.

While these figures may seem impressive, it raises the question of sustainability in the fashion industry. The process of creating such intricate and elaborate designs often relies on non-environmentally friendly materials and practices. As the fashion industry moves towards more sustainable practices, it is important to consider the environmental impact of red carpet outfits, and whether the resources and effort invested in them are justifiable.

Despite the attention given to red carpet looks, little consideration is given to their environmental impact, and celebrities are rarely questioned about it. However, in the era of climate change, it is important to acknowledge the fashion industry’s contribution to pollution. According to the United Nations, fashion is among the largest polluters globally, accounting for 8-10% of greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, conventional cotton farming uses a significant amount of pesticides and herbicides, with 4% and 10% respectively being used globally. 

This contributes to the overall pollution of the environment. Additionally, fashion is responsible for approximately one-fifth of the 300 million tons of plastic produced annually. With these alarming statistics, it is imperative that fashion industry players consider sustainable practices to mitigate their environmental impact. Celebrities can also contribute to this by promoting sustainable fashion on the red carpet, as well as encouraging designers to use eco-friendly materials in their designs.

The majority of synthetic fabrics used in clothing, such as polyester, nylon, elastane, neoprene, and fleece, are derived from petroleum and do not biodegrade. Two-thirds of our clothing contains petrochemical fibers, which are released into our waterways during laundry cycles in the form of microfibers. Although fast fashion brands like Zara and H&M rely heavily on petrochemical fabrics, they are also present in red carpet dressing, particularly elastane, which provides stretch to gowns and undergarments like Spanx. It is crucial to consider the environmental impact of these materials and prioritize more sustainable options to promote responsible fashion.

PVC, also known as polyvinyl chloride, has been dubbed “the poison plastic” by Greenpeace due to its association with cancer and infertility. PVC is commonly used in fashion for items such as sequins, vinyl, shoe heels, and the plastic tubing in handbag handles. It is crucial to acknowledge the harmful effects of PVC and prioritize more sustainable options in the fashion industry to mitigate its impact on human health and the environment.

While couture fashion provides employment to skilled artisans and preserves traditional handwork, the industry must also consider its environmental impact. Luxury brands often boast about the hours invested in craftsmanship, but it is rare for them to calculate their red carpet carbon footprint. Unfortunately, many red carpet looks still rely heavily on synthetic materials like plastic sequins, which contribute to pollution and do not biodegrade. It is important for fashion industry players to prioritize sustainability in their design processes and reduce their carbon footprint to mitigate the industry’s impact on the environment.

Stylist Elizabeth Stewart, whose clientele includes Cate Blanchett and Julia Roberts, acknowledges that the fashion industry is not yet prepared to be entirely sustainable. However, she believes that progress can be made by guiding the industry in the right direction and taking steps towards sustainability. It is important to acknowledge that fashion cannot shift to full sustainability overnight, but the industry can move towards sustainability by prioritizing responsible sourcing, ethical production, and reducing carbon footprint. With a concerted effort from industry players and consumers, the fashion industry can transition towards more sustainable practices that benefit both people and the planet.

Cate Blanchett has been a vocal proponent of sustainable fashion and event dressing re-wear, as evidenced by her recent awards season appearances. She has long advocated for shopping in her closet rather than relying on new clothes, such as when she served as the president of the Venice Film Festival jury in 2020. At Cannes last year, she demonstrated her creativity and fashion sense by reworking an embroidered Alexander McQueen gown she had previously worn to the 2016 BAFTAs, opting to wear pants instead of the long, feathered skirt. By promoting event-dressing re-wear, Blanchett is setting an example for sustainable fashion and reducing waste in the industry.

The practice of restyling pieces in one’s wardrobe is not limited to celebrities. Catherine, Princess of Wales, is known for her Royal Rewear, often trotting out previously worn garments that have been restyled for a new look. At this year’s BAFTAs, for example, she wore a white one-shoulder McQueen gown with long black gloves, which she originally wore to the same event in 2019 with a floral shoulder appliqué and diamond bracelet. 

This approach also extends to accessories, with Viola Davis often wearing a pair of Stuart Weitzman pumps she has previously worn on numerous red carpets. By reusing and repurposing items in their wardrobe, these public figures are demonstrating a commitment to sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. Blanchett highlights the alarming rate of consumerism in the fashion industry, with consumers purchasing 80 billion fashion items annually, a 400 percent increase from a decade ago. This system is unsustainable for both the planet and humanity. Blanchett advocates for the simple solution of re-wearing what you already own.

The fashion industry contributes significantly to the waste crisis. The United Nations reports that 85 percent of all clothes end up in landfills, while the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that a truckload of textiles is sent to the dump or incinerated every second. To reduce waste, secondhand clothing is a viable solution. At this year’s Academy Awards, Cate Blanchett chose a sapphire-blue statement blouse from the Louis Vuitton archives instead of ordering a new creation. Similarly, Everything Everywhere All at Once co-director Daniel Scheinert opted to purchase his Academy Awards tuxedo from Unclaimed Baggage, a Scottsboro, and Alabama retailer that sells items from lost luggage. Scheinert is from Birmingham, which is a two-hour drive from Scottsboro.

Cameron Silver, the owner of Decades, a Los Angeles-based vintage couture boutique, recommends buying locally preloved items to offset one’s carbon footprint. By doing so, one can acquire something unique with a positive vibe, as it was likely worn to a joyous event. This approach is not only environmentally beneficial but also good for one’s energy. Livia Firth, the co-founder and creative director of Eco-Age consultancy, and the Green Carpet Challenge Style Handbook, says that Ronald has been advocating for sustainable fashion for several years. She believes that it’s crucial to back independent designers who are working towards making a positive impact in the fashion industry.

The fashion industry’s over-reliance on PVC has resulted in a huge amount of non-biodegradable waste that pollutes the environment. Thankfully, new innovations in fashion technology are emerging to provide eco-friendly alternatives. Stella McCartney’s recent collaboration with Radiant Matter has resulted in a line of BioSequins, which are biodegradable and non-toxic plant-based cellulose sequins. This innovative solution has caught the attention of the fashion industry, and Cara Delevingne was even featured on the cover of Vogue wearing a jumpsuit made with BioSequins.

According to McCartney, the BioSequins are not only environmentally friendly but also aesthetically pleasing, proving that sustainability and fashion can coexist. Choose Eco-Friendly Materials for a Sustainable Wardrobe

Linen is grown without artificial irrigation, while organic cotton is free of harmful pesticides. Additionally, Tencel is a synthetic material that is derived from renewable resources and has a silk-like texture. At the Academy Awards ceremony, ambassadors for RCGD Global, Chloe East and Bailey Bass, chose to wear Tencel outfits. Bass wore a white column dress by Zac Posen, while East donned a strapless black ballgown by Monique Lhuillier.

According to Suzy Amis Cameron, co-founder of RCGD Global, more and more celebrities are adopting a sustainable lifestyle. She believes that sustainability is a process, and we can all take steps towards it. RCGD Global has created a free Style Guide for eco-conscious dressing to help people make more sustainable choices in their fashion choices.