top of page

The Role of Activism on the Red Carpet

The injustices that take place in the fashion industry are well-known. From big designers being amongst the worst culprits of damaging environmental standards in the industry, to the political statements made by celebrities throughout the years through style.

It is apparent that the red carpet has been the place where celebrities address the most imperative issues yet where further change is required.

“You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes. You can see and feel everything in clothes.” Diana Vreeland

The environmental role on the red carpet

The problem with red carpet fashion stems from well-known designers in the industry alongside the celebrities that feel comfortable wearing a piece once and then which will likely sit at the back of their wardrobes. It is now common knowledge that designer brands hold very poor ethics when it comes to the environmental area.

However, the influencers showing off these designer pieces and those asking the question “Who wore what?” need to be held accountable too. A strong need to endorse more sustainable brands is required and instead, we need to ask the question “How you wore”.

Data from the European Parliament found that the textile industry accounts for 10% of the world’s Co2 emissions, which is strikingly higher than the aviation and shipping industry combined. However, the focus on fashion’s dangerous contribution often goes unnoticed and uncared for by the owners of the big designer industries.

Instead, the blame is often placed on us as consumers who aren’t doing enough, deflecting the root cause of the problem, which is no doubt the designers as well as the celebrities promoting their brands on the red carpet and elsewhere.

Encouragingly, some brands seem to be finally waking up to the issue, with Prada recently stating their desire to shift all sources of nylon accessories to 100% recycled material by 2021.

Political movements on the red carpet

The red carpet has been transformed into a place where the most pressing issues are confronted through fashion. Celebrities come together to bring attention and create conversation about the industries own reckonings.

In a protest against “industry misconduct”, celebrities stood in unison all wearing black to make a strong statement about sexual harassment in the industry. The 2018 Golden Globes made a powerful charge on the red carpet, celebrating the strength and bravery of women who speak up. This wall of black symbolised that everyone is equal and need to be addressed in such a way. This was a way to make fashion mean more and make a difference.

“Honoured to stand with this woman and women everywhere tonight for equality, parity, safety and inclusion.” Reese Witherspoon

Harry Styles’ 2021 Grammy’s red carpet look was widely praised by us as daring yet empowering as he wore a purple feather boa matched with a bright yellow blazer, proving that fashion has no boundaries. The way he embraces fashion has hugely influenced the industry consumers.

He has shown that for men, who are often ignored and limited to what acceptable attire is by the media, it is acceptable to explore your identity and express yourself through what you wear. This is a positive change, coming far in breaking down gender fashion stereotypes regarding what is accepted by society, showcasing the power the red carpet holds in changing societal attitudes towards fashion.

“I think fashion can do a lot. Fashion is very popular, so it can help broadcast a message and reach a new generation.” Maria Grazia Chiuri

Ava DuVernay walked the Oscars red carpet in a beautiful dress, however there was an underlying statement. After the announcement of Trump’s travel ban, DuVernay wore a dress by designer Mohammed Ashi who is from Lebanon which is a majority Muslim country.

“A small sign of solidarity.” Ava DuVernay

Iconic looks from the past

Activism on the red carpet began to take off at the end of the eighties and in to the nineties as a rebellious mentality dominated mainly by young celebrities rising up in the industry. Julia Roberts wore a ‘men’s suit’ to the 1990s Golden Globe Awards, making a significant fashion choice that goes against the conventional gender norms at one of the most glamorous events in Hollywood.

“I loved the shape of it, for me, this was the epitome of being dressed up.” Julia Roberts

In 1999, Celine Dion wore a backwards tuxedo to the Academy Awards, which was considered an ‘iconic fashion fail’. However, the outfit was planned and presented as a challenge to the expectation for women to wear a dress. At the time it was considered “avant-garde” and has gone from a fashion fail to a red carpet legendary look that is celebrated.

Overall, does activism belong on the red carpet?

Most people would agree today that the answer is clearly, yes. We are now living in a world where social, political and ethical issues surround us every day and are exposed to us from a young age, and fashion plays an active role in pushing for positive change in society. Fashion brands and designers can no longer ignore what is constantly on the minds of many of us, from environmental issues to promoting positive body image.

This isn’t to say that problems don’t arise from making your values and beliefs apparent through your fashion, and the situation celebrities may find themselves in by representing certain brands and designers.

There will certainly be some controversy and hate that comes with playing a politically active role, but the overwhelming reaction will be that of positivity and love from the modern-day consumer.


bottom of page