What Does it Take to Create a Sustainable Gown for the Oscars?

What Does it Take to Create a Sustainable Gown for the Oscars?

We spoke with an Oscar winner to find out


After the BAFTAs failed to establish an “eco dress code” this year, the Oscars red carpet was a pleasant surprise in sustainable red carpet dressing. Best supporting actress nominee, Margot Robbie wore vintage Chanel couture, Joaquin Phoenix accepted the award for best actor in a Stella McCartney tux that he wore throughout award season, and Saoirse Ronan’s Gucci gown repurposed some fabric from her BAFTA gown (also, Gucci and made of recycled satin). 

Sustainable fashion on the red carpet is not new, Suzy Amis Cameron founded Red Carpet Green Dress (RCGD) more than a decade ago to spotlight sustainable design on the world’s most watched red carpet. Since 2009, RCGD has facilitated collaborations between sustainable designers and celebrities from Naomie Harris to Emma Roberts. 

This year, RCGD collaborated with actresses Kaitlyn Denver, Lea Seydoux, and director (and Oscar winner!), Elena Andreicheva on their sustainable red carpet look. We connected with Andreicheva and executive director of RCGD, Samata Pattinson to learn what it takes to create a sustainable look for the red carpet, and how does it feel to walk the Oscars red carpet?


Frontlash: Samata, what is RCGD? What is your mission?

Samata Pattinson: Red Carpet Green Dress is a women-led global change-making organisation from “moment” to movement, bringing sustainable design to the forefront of conversation and action within the fashion industry. We are working hard to draw attention to the importance of more sustainable practices in fashion and be part of bringing those solutions to the global market. 


Who did you work with this year on the red carpet—designers and talent?

 SP: We worked with three amazing ladies as our celebrity ambassadors: Oscar nominated and now winner Elena Andreicheva, Kaitlyn Dever, and James Bond actress Léa Seydoux. Louis Vuitton dressed Léa and Kaitlyn in custom-made sustainable gowns, and the amazingly Laura Basci, who is known for using sustainable practices in her designs, dressed  Elena. 


What are you most excited about with regards to these collaborations?

SP: Both Louis Vuitton and Laura Basci really got on board to support our message about the role that textiles play in the fashion industry when it comes to contributing to environmental damage. They did this by incorporating our newly launched textiles into their stunning pieces of work and helping to spread our message. Working with a brand like Louis Vuitton is a huge honour, they were established in 1854! You just can’t come across an understanding of the couture world more thoroughly than with a fashion house like that. And then with Laura Basci, you have LA’s leading couture house creating a locally made, locally embroidered gown for us in her Atelier in The Hollywood Hills — it was such a dream. 


Elena, Congrats on your BAFTA and Oscar wins! How did you feel about your Oscar debut?

Elena Andreicheva: Thank you! I felt pretty excited. I should say nervous too, but there was so much going on there was no time for the anxiety to build, which I was very grateful for!  


What’s it like to walk a major red carpet? Do you get nervous, excited? 

EA: I would say it’s exciting. I’m a documentary filmmaker so, on the one hand, I am not used to being in front of the cameras; on the other hand, I felt very zen actually. 


Did you have a red carpet getting ready routine?

EA: I really don’t. I was in a huge rush before the BAFTAs in London. For the Oscars, I got ready in our hotel room in LA with my 1.5-year old son roaming around, my partner trying to get him to sleep, the makeup artist and hair stylist working around them, photographers trying not to trip on anyone.  I tried to eat as many eggs as I could to help me survive the day — which is a tradition I intend to keep. 


What prompted the collaboration with RCGD? 

EA: I was introduced to Samata by a mutual friend when she heard I’d been nominated for an Oscar for our short documentary, “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (if you’re a girl).” I just loved the idea behind this women-led organisation, an idea I wholeheartedly support.


Can you tell us about the Laura Basci gown Elena wore?

SP: For Elena, the dress is handmade with fabric which is part of the newly launched Red Carpet Green Dress  textile range made from Tencel Luxe filament yarn, blended with cashmere. Hand-beaded with Swarovski crystals in Basci’s studio in Los Angeles. 


  Can you tell us a little bit about the brand new Tencel textile ? What is groundbreaking about it? What makes it sustainable? How was it developed?

 SP: Clothing represents more than 60 percent of the total textiles used globally and in the last 15 years, clothing production has approximately doubled. Nearly everyone, everywhere, comes into contact with textiles all the time, and they create a huge environmental impact in the world. Fibers form the basis of the fashion industry — without fibers we have no textiles, and without textiles we have no fashion industry. We are really excited about the three textiles we launched because they represent the future of eco-couture and a needed market solution. 

The World Bank estimates that the textile industry is responsible for as much as 20 percent of industrial pollution in our rivers and land. Finding ways to curb the environmental pollution caused by textile production starts with finding new ways to produce fabrics that don’t require toxins and large amounts of water, and which minimize harm to the local ecology. Our inaugural RCGD textile range incorporates the innovative Tencel Luxe filament yarn in varying percentages.They are fully biodegradable in water, soil and compost under industrial, home, soil and marine conditions. They can fully revert back to nature which really completes the cycle.


Why was it important for you to wear a sustainable design on the red carpet? 

EA: I was excited about the Oscars red carpet but also aware that in some ways it stands for issues I spend my working life trying to shed light on: privilege, inequality, exploitation, excess.  I didn’t want to be part of that parade, I wanted to make a statement in some small way — and RCGD helped me show you can absolutely do that.   


Were you aware of sustainable fashion before this collaboration?

EA: Yes, absolutely. I’ve always gravitated towards the re-use or re-purposing of clothing — be it wearing something my mother used to wear or shopping in charity shops. Then my sister spent time working with a sustainable atelier in London, Atelier Tammam, so I was lucky to hear that sustainable textiles were a new frontier. I think the next step is making the existing textile industry sustainable.


What’s been the most surprising/interesting thing you’ve learned from this process?

EA: One thing I was very surprised to hear is that Laura Basci, the designer who made my amazing dress for the Oscars, is the only couture designer still based in LA! The rest of the gowns get flown in from Europe. I was shocked because I thought LA, home of Hollywood, would have its own couture scene — but also surprised that local artisans were such a small part of the fashion industry there. I hope that can change.    


*this interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity

Cover Photo : Getty Images

Article Photos: Courtesy RCGD

As told to: Laura Jones