Praise for Kate’s BAFTAs re-wear but green message largely falls flat

Joaquin Phoenix set a tone for red-carpet dressing at the Golden Globes when he declared that he would be wearing the same tux all this awards season, as one way of "doing his bit" for climate change.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, in her Alexander McQueen dress at the BAFTAs.Credit:Invision

And at the BAFTAs, AKA the "British Oscars" on Sunday, London time, he was still strutting in the same suit, in line with a request from the awards' organisers that attendees help reduce the event's footprint by dressing sustainably.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, scored points for re-wearing an Alexander McQueen gown she first wore in 2012, while Little Women star Saoirse Ronan wore a Gucci frock made from "discarded" satin. But, to use film parlance, the "green" credits for the BAFTAs red carpet stopped abruptly short after that.

There was a swathe of custom looks, including Zoe Kravitz looking sublime as ever in gunmetal Saint Laurent and Scarlett Johansson in Atelier Versace. And then there were other looks straight off the recent couture runways: Margot Robbie and Lily-Rose Depp in Chanel, Emilia Clarke in Schiaparelli and Kristin Scott Thomas in Erdem.

Of course, whether some outfits, particularly those made by couture houses for the celebrities but then returned, met the BAFTAs brief really comes down to how you define what constitutes a sustainable choice.

Is an outfit "sustainable" if it's made by a couture house that has banned fur but still stages energy-intensive fashion shows (including the many miles people travel by plane/car to be there)? Is an outfit sustainable if it's brand new on its red-carpet debut but goes on to have a long life in an archive or in a starlet's wardrobe?

If sustainable fashion at its most basic is creating clothing that's of high quality that doesn't simply wind up in landfill, then could it not be argued that all the outfits on the BAFTAs red carpet are sustainable?

Well, like many things, it's complicated.

While it's easy (or easier at least) for Phoenix to re-wear a suit and the Duchess, who must buy her own clothes, to score kudos for pulling out an old frock (especially if it pays homage to Diana/is a nice one/is made by a British designer), being green may not be as straightforward for other celebrities.

Red carpets exist to draw an audience to the stars at an awards show but also to promote the fashion industry, particularly to the wealthy individuals of the world who are able to afford the couture creations by the top houses. Hence the speedy passage of gowns from Paris Couture Week, to London and then on to Los Angeles, where Sunday's Oscars will take place.

Many celebrities, including Robbie and Depp, are contracted to fashion houses and their contracts require them to wear the clothes, and usually the latest styles. While it would be great to see them pull things from the archives more often, this would often fail to make economic sense to the brands. Red carpets are money-can't-buy exposure that's way more valuable than any spread or advertisement in a magazine.

And then there's the publicity factor. Celebrities, in particular lady ones, use red carpets to promote themselves, their movies and their next projects. Even Phoenix, who is vegan and has a record of supporting environmental causes, copped accusations of virtue signalling for his public declaration about wearing the same Stella McCartney suit. One can only imagine the response if a female star declared she was wearing the same gown to all four major awards ceremonies because of the environment, or simply because she liked it so much. Yes, it's fanciful.

Sustainability, it seems, can also be sexist.

But perhaps it's time, to borrow more film parlance, Hollywood changes the script, and actually starts to make sustainability on the red carpet cool. It would fall on the celebrities themselves to have the courage to demand truly sustainable looks from designers and their stylists, as well as the media to propogate a more positive reaction to stars who choose to go down this path. If it's good enough for Kate Middleton, surely it's good enough for ScarJo or Margot.

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