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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Style meets sustainability at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards in Milan

Livia Firth of Eco-Age celebrated the culmination of her Green Carpet Challenge at a star-studded event in Italy

Colin and Livia Firth. Photo by Stefano Rellandini
Colin and Livia Firth. Photo by Stefano Rellandini

Grandees of the fashion world gathered in the elegant surrounds of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan last week, for the first-ever Green Carpet Fashion Awards, hosted by Carlo Capasa, chairman of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI), and Livia Firth, founder and creative director of the sustainability consultancy, Eco-Age.

A driving force behind sustainability in fashion, it was Firth who first acted on the idea that the industry could create high-end pieces that not only looked good, but were kind to the planet. Searching for an alternative to mindless consumption, toxic chemicals, and wasteful manufacturing processes, she challenged designers to create looks that were sustainable but still stunning enough for her to wear on the red carpet.

Accompanying her husband, actor Colin Firth, on a red carpet tour to promote his film A Single Man in 2010, Firth initiated the Green Carpet Challenge. “I wanted to use the fact that I was going to be walking those red carpets next to Colin to campaign about environmental and social justice issues through my gown,” Firth says. The gauntlet was thrown down.

In 2013, five designers, Burberry, Christopher Kane, Erdem, Roland Mouret and Victoria Beckham, all handpicked by United States Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and championed by actor Emma Watson, were invited to create the first Green Carpet Capsule Collection.

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Stocked online at Net-a-Porter, the collection quickly sold out. That same year saw the launch of the GCC trademark, to validate and acknowledge industry progress. Designed to encourage best practice, it launched with a collection of bags from Gucci, made from Amazon leather certified as not contributing to deforestation. Firth then started #30wears, a pledge to wear every item of clothing 30 times, in response to research suggesting that fashion purchases are usually worn only seven times before they are discarded.

Encouraged by support from the likes of Stella McCartney, Meryl Streep, Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz and Cate Blanchett, the Green Carpet Challenge announced, in what could only be seen as a logical next-step, that this year it would host its own awards ceremony, to close Milan Fashion Week.

As an Italian, Firth is also keen to protect the artisanal aspect of the Made in Italy moniker, so the awards ceremony was linked to that. Mindful that sustainability also means safeguarding the livelihood of craftspeople, the awards are “founded on sustainable values and represent the handprint of fashion. They are the first awards to honour Made in Italy – one of the most important supply chains in the world”.

A total of 12 awards were handed out and winners received a statuette crafted from Fairmined gold by Chopard. Tom Ford won the Best International Designer Supporting Made in Italy Award, which was presented by Wintour, while the Art of Craftsmanship Award went to the highly skilled seamstresses of Maison Valentino, and was presented by singer and activist Annie Lennox.

The American model Arizona Muse handed the Supply Chain Innovation Award to Gucci, while the Artisanal Laureate Award went to Chiara Vigo, thought to be the last surviving maker of Bisso sea silk, which is crafted using an ancient technique that involves hand-spinning and weaving threads from molluscs.

The first Franca Sozzani GCC Award for Best Emerging Designer – named after the late editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue – went to Tiziano Guardini, presented by supermodel Naomi Campbell and editor Sara Sozzani Maino. Chosen from 10 finalists shortlisted earlier in the year, Guardini won with a look covered in sequins made from crushed CDs.

Dakota Johnson and Alessandro Michele of Gucci. Courtesy Gucci
Dakota Johnson and Alessandro Michele of Gucci. Courtesy Gucci

Finally, in recognition of the great strides that each designer is making, the CNMI Recognition of Sustainability Award went to Giorgio Armani, Miuccia Prada, Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino and Alessandro Michele of Gucci, and was presented by Colin Firth. Announcing the award, Firth said: “Tonight we are celebrating decisive action in this world-famous supply chain. It is vital, as we move forward, that we cooperate.”