Published 11 months ago.
About a 4 minute read.
Image: Red Carpet Green Dress
Imagine if, the day after the Oscars, discussion of the best (and worst!) dressed attendees focused as much on the sustainability characteristics of their choices as on how they looked.
One of the biggest challenges facing the fashion industry in its move
towards greater sustainability is changing the way we consume fashion.
It could be argued that the very term “fashion” implies unsustainable
behaviour — with its emphasis on regularly changing tastes and the need to
discard garments as soon as they are “out of fashion,” rather than because
they are no longer fit to wear.
Perhaps the most discussed fashion event of the year will be the Oscars and
its red-carpet parade on 12 March 2023, with live-streamed
of the fashion choices on show and much discussion in subsequent press
Red-carpet outfits are often the antithesis of a sustainable fashion choice.
They are often impractical for day-to-day or even second use — there is
for the material used and its sustainability profile; and re-wearing
red-carpet outfits has historically drawn criticism from fashion
commentators. Sometimes, attendees will even use more than one outfit during
an event — changing from their red carpet outfit to a second stunning,
single-use ensemble for various after-parties.
The perception of fashion as a disposable good has helped drive up
consumption of clothing. According to
by McKinsey, the number of garments purchased per capita increased 60
percent between 2000 and 2014. The European Environment Agency
EU citizens consume approximately 15kg of textiles per year and dispose of
3.8kg. These discarded textiles are often exported to other countries and
many may end up in landfill or discarded in the environment. This level of
waste and overconsumption is unsustainable and a key challenge for industry
An important driver for changing the way fashion is consumed will be
changing focus away from novelty in attire and instead lauding more
sustainable choices such as vintage items or those made from recycled
The influence of popular culture in driving such a mindset shift is an
Fashion brands see events such as the Oscars as highly rewarding showcases
for their styles, with actors often paid substantial
to wear particular designers. Although the high-end couture worn at these
events will typically be well out of the price range of most consumers, the
styles chosen are quickly picked up and pushed by cheaper fast-fashion names
keen to cash in on the buzz by bringing new lines to market in a matter of
The widespread media coverage and buzz around certain styles and designs
makes such events important points of influence for the next big trend or
designer. However, the attention paid to the outfits worn at events such as
the Oscars provides a potentially important point of leverage for changing
the discussion around fashion. Imagine if the next day, discussion of the
best (and worst!) dressed attendees focused as much on the sustainability
characteristics of their choices as it did on how they looked. A focus on
the sustainability characteristics of the “best” dressed would likely also
pressure the fast fashion names to try and follow in any imitative outfits
Happily, there are already some efforts being made to make red-carpet events
greener. Individual actors have made notable sustainable choices in recent
years. For instance, Lady Gaga wearing a dress made from upcycled
Actors including Emma
Kate Winslet and Jane
have also pushed back against the need for novelty by ‘boldly’ re-wearing
outfits from previous events; and everyone from Meryl Streep to Emma
Watson and Viola Davis have walked red carpets in gowns made from
recycled plastic bottles. There
are also broader efforts such as the Red Carpet Green
Dress initiative, which works with
designers and actors to promote more sustainable fashion choices at the
We hope to see the trend towards more sustainable fashion choices on the red
carpet continue and that this starts to receive as much coverage as does
“best” or “worst” dressed opinions.
Published Mar 8, 2023 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET