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How COVID-19 Fuelled the Sustainability of Red Carpet Fashion

It’s been over a year since the last ‘normal’ red carpet event pre-COVID. Posing for group photos may seem all too unfamiliar now socially distanced or virtual events have become the new norm. Meanwhile, this time spent away from the physical red carpet provided a unique opportunity for the fashion industry. Taking the time to pause and reflect on the present and what needs to be done in the future to insight much-needed positive change.

“…It’s an opportunity for everybody to slow down, produce less, and really make the world over fall in love with the creativity and passion of fashion.” Anna Wintour

The red carpet is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) platforms for fashion communication. The outfits are talked about for weeks – which celebrity wore what designer? Who is the best dressed? Who is the worst dressed? It’s a powerhouse that influences the broader market in a major way.

The negative realities of the fashion industry

The fashion industry has gained a bad reputation for being ignorant of the negative environmental and social impacts on the planet. Fashion is one of the most polluting industries globally and relies on exploiting natural resources and people. It is responsible for an estimated 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 20% of all global wastewater.

1 in 6 people work in the garment industry, making it the world’s most labour-dependent industry. 80% of the 74 million textile workers worldwide are women. Only 2% earn a living wage. Famously in 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed, killing 1134 people. The Rana Plaza mainly manufactured clothes for fast fashion labels. Although it also did so for popular red carpet brands such as Gucci and Prada.

Since the arrival of COVID-19, some smaller brands have had industry limitations due to restrictions on shipping and production. On the flip side, huge designer brands such as Ralph Lauren and Chanel have helped with relief efforts. It seems that the industry needed this push from the pandemic to recognise its true impact on the planet – a silver lining, perhaps.

Increased awareness and engagement

A large part of the fashion industry is advertising and consuming the product. If this is done in an unsustainable and unethical way, it can promote a toxic consumer culture that leads to ecological damage and negative social impact.

Designer labels are not cheap, throw-away clothing. Yet, the red carpet industry encourages a similar culture of never wearing the same thing twice. As major influences in the industry, red carpet designers are responsible for evolving their practices to become more sustainable. For the health of the people and the planet, they need to think of the wider context with their designs.

The right celebrity and designer combination on the red carpet can help a brand gain significant media attention. Using their platform for good to explore the things that matter would significantly impact the fashion industry. We as consumers are becoming more mindful of what damage the fashion industry can truly do to the planet. So, designers must work alongside this if they wish to continue making a profit.

Sustainable fashion isn’t a trend, it’s the future

Red Carpet Green Dress is a women-led global fashion campaign bringing sustainability to the spotlight. They often collaborate with global or smaller independent brands to integrate sustainable resourcing and vintage elements.

Notably, Sophie Turner wore ethical brand Galvan to the 2016 Oscars and Emma Roberts wore vintage Armani in 2017. Collaborating with independent designers who may have been affected by the pandemic or re-wearing garments on the red carpet is never a bad look as far as they’re concerned.

It doesn’t matter who has been the first or the last to incorporate sustainability. Just as long as more brands realise what they have to do in order for this planet to survive. Suppose brands want to be sustainable as a business and still be profitable in 10 years. In that case, they have to take care of the supply chain, the people, and the raw materials.

As the pandemic has highlighted our connectedness, we hope to see future red carpet events prioritising the voice for sustainability in fashion. COVID-19 has rolled out a red carpet for sustainable design, so to speak.


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