In the world of fashion, nothing compares to the grandeur and decadence of a red carpet event. So much so, that each year all eyes turn onto the guests attending, for the whole world to admire and scrutinise. Without a doubt, in the days following, you are sure to see countless articles surrounding who was the best dressed and whose fashion efforts failed. This modern day spectacle makes red carpets the ideal place for international product placement, not just for fashion designers, but for celebrity activists to convey their message. In this article we are going to break down five of the most recent and most iconic red carpet looks that hold important political messages.
Despite the restrictions due to Covid-19 and many events being cancelled, some award shows such as the SAG Awards were hosted online, creating a virtual red carpet for nominees to attend. Jamie Chung’s look caught a lot of attention, promoting a powerful statement about Asian hate. This comes after the recent shooting at an Asian massage parlour in Atlanta, resulting in eight undeserved, racially motivated deaths. This tragedy has brought to light the devastating surge in violence against Asian Americans. The “Lovecraft Country” actor’s red, Edie Parker clutch was emblazoned with the words “Stop Asian Hate” in gold lettering. In a post on social media, Chung wrote “In some Asian cultures, the colour red symbolises joy, luck and happiness. In Korean culture it symbolises creation, passion and power. I’m so proud of my history and heritage”.
The sentiment recollected Laverne Cox’s statement look at the 2019 Emmy Awards. The “Orange Is the New Black” star showed her support for the LGBTQ+ community by carrying a rainbow coloured clutch, adorned with the date on which the Supreme Court would begin hearing arguments over whether LGBTQ+ workers should be protected under anti-discrimination laws. Another custom design by Edie Parker, the clutch references Trump Administration’s inhumane efforts to legalise the ability for employers to fire workers based on gender identity and presentation. Cox is recognised for being a trailblazer for the transgender community and has won numerous awards for her activist approach in spreading awareness. “It’s about raising awareness, so everyone knows that our lives are in danger,” Cox said during an interview on the red carpet. “A lot of people aren’t talking about this case, and it has implications for the LGBT community.”
More recently, at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards, Lizzo wore a dress adorned with the word “VOTE”. During her acceptance speech, Lizzo encouraged her fans to use their voices and “refuse to be suppressed”, in reference to the US presidential election, which seen Republican Donald Trump go up against Democratic candidate Joe Biden for presidency. She followed by saying “they’re afraid of your power, there’s power in who you are, there’s power in your voice, so whether it’s through music, protest, or your right to vote, use your power, use your voice.” The powerful message seemed to strike a chord, with a record number of Americans voting in the 2020 elections, including an increased turnout of young voters.
“Whether it’s through music, protest, or your right to vote, use your power, use your vote” Lizzo
The rise in celebrity activism on the red carpet is not just limited to individual efforts either. One of the most infamous red carpet campaigns focused on the Time’s Up movement, where actors and actresses showed their support at the 2018 Golden Globes by wearing black. The Time Up movement was a response to the #MeToo campaign and serial sex offender Harvey Weinstein’s case. It aimed to shed light onto sexual harassment and gender inequalities in the workplace. Many women at the event wore black, including Reece Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey, and many male actors wore Time’s Up pins, in order to show solidarity with the victims of sexual misconduct.
The final look on our list goes to Joaquin Phoenix, who took a more subtle but equally profound approach, in order to make a point about reducing waste. Throughout 2020, the Joker star wore a single Stella McCartney tuxedo to all the events he attended, including the Oscars. He vowed to wear the same suit before the awards season started, in an aim to prove a point about sustainable fashion. Phoenix, who is an animal rights activist and environmentalist, allegedly chose McCartney as she never uses leather, skin, fur or feathers in her garments. In the midst of the California wildfires, there was a plethora of steps taken towards sustainability and the climate crisis in the 2020 awards season, with the Golden Globes serving an all-vegan menu and pledging to reuse the red carpet and any plastic used from the ceremony.
Being given such a huge platform, there is so many opportunities for celebrities to stand up for what they believe in. Red carpet events, in particular, are an amazing way to combine captivating fashion and spread awareness for so many important causes while the whole world watches. As many people idolise these celebrities and see them as an example to follow, they are able to influence their fans in such a compelling way. It fills me with optimism to see so many celebrities use their influence to create positive change and make the world a better place.