The minute the ‘Red Carpet’ rolls out in an article then the expectation will be one of lavish dresses – their hems sweeping the scarlet surface as cameras pop and flash. Each ensemble is praised, belittled and analysed by the media, as galleries of who-wore-what-best spring up like clumps of snowdrops across the internet. The merry-go-round season of BAFTAs and Oscars allows for more than a little dressing up – with some indulging in the ruffles and labels, while others foam that such a thing might be allowed or even enjoyed!
However, what image does ‘Green Carpet’ evoke? Aside from colour blindness, it is the brilliant initiative of Livia Firth – (married to Colin Firth) an eco-extraordinaire. The premise of her ‘Green Carpet Challenge’ is deceptively simple and rather canny. Every time she emerges to attend this awards ceremony or that premiere, she is clad in something sustainable – whether it is a bespoke Paul Smith ethical tailored tuxedo or a creation whipped up by Orsola de Castro. Where better to promote this very green offshoot of the industry than somewhere surrounded by cameras, lenses and rapid shutter speeds - guaranteeing coverage? Livia’s statement is visual – promoting something she is passionate about in every picture that is published. She also blogs for Vogue about her experiences, and has embarked on a campaign to encourage design houses to dwell a little more on the impact of the clothes they produce. She is integrating ethical with the mainstream, which is perhaps the only way to initiate change – or at least to widen the audience. She is also Creative Director of the excellent website Eco-Age, where I recently completed the Fru-Gal challenge – spending five days wearing nothing but vintage, second hand and ethical clothes. It wasn’t a hard challenge for me, as that is my usual source of dressing anyway. The results can be seen in the pictures threaded throughout this post (for the sources of the clothes please see the wonderful website itself).
The clothes we wear can be a declaration of sorts. Even those who claim to be ‘above’ fashion (as though this is some kind of cloudy moral high plateau where only those in the baggiest of fleeces are allowed) still have to make some kind of a decision as to what to wear each morning – their choice to resolutely stand with their back to the industry being as much a statement as the latest Mulberry bag. Like it or not, we do not wander through life naked. Uniforms denote jobs, schools and clubs. Teenagers adopt mohair jumpers and messy hair to assert individuality. Evening gowns give us the chance to play at peacocks - but unlike birds, who are stuck with one type of plumage, we have countless, colourful opportunities.
Clothes can make us tribal; clothes can set us apart; clothes are part of the impression we give of ourselves to those around us. According to Carlyle in Sartor Resartus (as quoted in Lawrence Langner’s ‘The Importance of Wearing Clothes’) “Man’s earthly interests are hooked and buttoned together and held up by clothes.” This fascinating (although very dated) book charts the significance that clothes hold for all of us. Langner summed it up as follows: “clothes came to play an important role in the progress of civilization and all its cultural aspects; religion, government, sexual habits, social conduct and behavior, the performing and visual arts, and most other branches of human endeavour”.
For Livia Firth, the branch of human endeavour is the sustainable fashion sector. Their presence can be felt at London Fashion Week in the Estethica exhibition, while Oxfam have organized the Good Fashion Show to further promote their admirable aims. I will be blogging for Oxfam from LFW, and have been writing for them for several months. You can read my pieces here. To steal a line from my last article for them - "alongside harnessing the multitude of resources of the past through charity shops, it is likewise important to buy from sustainable brands and producers so as to ensure a socially and environmentally sounder future."