She may stand beside her Oscar-winning husband Colin Firth, but ‘the queen of the green carpet’ has successfully shone the spotlight on eco style. We speak to the creative director Livia Firth about her campaign and the future.
Since rejecting big labels for more sustainable fashion, Livia’s pioneering ways has the fashion worlds’ big names following suit. With the UAE holding it’s first eco-friendly fashion show earlier this year and Middle Eastern designers like Mochi and Maryam Omaira moving towards a more eco-friendly manufacturing and design process it’s becoming a necessity within every aspect of daily life – no matter which industry. And it’s no easy feat being the leader of the pack. Having once told the Telegraph newspaper she was ‘a born campaigner’ Livia appears to be more than well suited to the job.
Why did you start the Green Carpet Challenge?
I originally launched the Green Carpet Challenge (GCC) to raise the profile of sustainable fashion and address the huge issues of its sourcing and supply, by harnessing the power of the red carpet by dressing celebrities and style-setters in ethical dresses, gowns or suits.Since we launched, the GCC has involved all the top international fashion designers and an array of A-list celebrities at the biggest red carpet awards worldwide.
In what ways has the GCC evolved?
Today, our focus is a bit less on red carpets and more on supply chain and tailor-made projects for brands which want to start a sustainable journey and it is very exciting to have created such a dynamic project which has managed to pair glamour and ethics to raise the public profile of sustainable fashion. We now have the ‘GCC Brand Mark’ (GCC®) as well which, within a year has become recognised as one of the principal brand marks in global fashion and a guarantor of sustainable excellence.
What is your main goal?
Our goal is to assess the environmental impact of textile and also connect the story of where an item of clothing has come from with the consumer. By working with all of the key people within the industry, we are able to create compellingly powerful, bespoke product lead initiatives that allow us all of think about our fashion in a different way.
In what ways are you managing to achieve this?
Our first big step towards this was at London Fashion Week last year, where we unveiled our very first ‘GCC Capsule Collection’, featuring five of Britain’s leading fashion designers – Christopher Bailey, Christopher Kane, Erdem, Roland Mouret and Victoria Beckham. The collection was launched at an exclusive event at Apsley House during London Fashion Week in September 2013 and was co-hosted by Anna Wintour, Natalie Massenet and myself. The ‘Green Carpet Capsule Collection’ was exclusively retailed through Net-A-Porter and was a complete sell out. We have our next very exciting Green Carpet Challenge Event happening this September – it is going to be huge!
How do you manage to persuade designers to get involved?
If you hear Tom Ford’s story he will tell you that I never take ‘no’ for an answer and never give up until I have someone on board. A lot of the high profile collaborations are decided over a simple cup of coffee with a designer. Sustainability has started to become mainstream – lots of brands realize it is not anymore a box to tick on the balance sheet, but that it is the only way forward.
What does each collaborator bring to the GCC?
Each collaboration has been very different and special in its way. Armani was the first ever luxury designer to create a stunning GCC gown for me which I wore at the Golden Globes in 2012. Valentino was the first one to do a GCC gown for a celebrity (Viola Davis) and Lanvin designed the GCC gown for Meryl Streep when she won an Oscar. Gucci was the first brand for which we created an entire new supply chain on leather and launched the GCC brand mark with a beautiful handbag collection made with the first ever zero deforestation certified leather in the world. Net-A-Porter was the first ever retailer to commission an entire GCC collection with stunning designers such as Victoria Beckham, Burberry’s Christopher Kane, Erdem and Roland Mouret. And then there is Chopard… An incredibly inspiring story of a true leader in the luxury jewellery sector, Caroline Scheufele (Chopard’s creative director and co-president) who decided to go to the bottom of her supply chain – the gold mines – and change the lives of the small community miners in Colombia.
Not everyone has been behind the GCC – how do you deal with that?
I never take ‘no’ for an answer and never give up until I have them on board!
Recently, you have been involved in the production of pieces – why was this important?
We now know that being a profitable business and a good stewardship of environmental and social justice is not only possible, but it’s a must-do. In the case of jewellery, when I first learned that there are 15 million people using little more than stone age tools to dig precious metals in the world, I was both shocked and determined to find a champion to help do something about it – and Caroline Scheufele is definitely a champion! She immediately saw that this was a community they could and had to support. Now through the unique partnership with ARM (Alliance for Responsible Mining) Chopard is helping these mining communities that had been forgotten and pushed to the margins and give them a leg-up – a legitimate place in society.
What role is Chopard playing?
You now have a leader in the industry, Chopard, which is acting directly at the starting point of their supply chain. Chopard is not buying something different – they want to be part of something different! How beautiful it is that today is possible to connect directly the glamour and beauty of a Chopard high jewellery piece directly to the artisanal community in South America? Making this connection is SO powerful. The smiles on the faces of the men and women when they learned that Chopard was to transform how they dig gold is a testament to the difference that luxury brands can truly make to people that, although they live half way around the world, they are treated as equals. It’s priceless!
When you add pieces to your wardrobe, what do you look for?
In fashion terms a very simple question that my friend Lucy Siegle said: when you are about to buy something, ask yourself “will I wear it at least 30 times?” if the answer is yes, then go ahead.
You wore a recycled dress by Gary Harvey to the Oscars in 2011. When you look back at this moment how do you feel?
Whenever I walk the red carpet in GCC I always feel proud. The Gary Harvey dress was a very special project as it was made from eleven repurposed vintage dresses. It was so beautiful – I felt like Cinderella.
Where do you see the GCC in 5 years’ time?
I hope that we are continuing to change the fashion world through the marriage of ethics and aesthetics and delivering a more equitable relationship for all peoples involved in the supply chain, who ultimately we must view as equals.