The Australian fires were on everyone’s mind at the Golden Globe Awards last night. Several winners mentioned the disaster and its ties to climate change in their acceptance speech, while others made the bolder choice to skip the event entirely: Russell Crowe stayed in his home country of Australia to help his family, and urged us all to “act based on science, move our global workforce to renewable energy, and respect our planet for the unique and amazing place it is” in a message delivered by Jennifer Aniston.
Joaquin Phoenix took it a step further when he got on stage to accept his best actor award for Joker: “It’s really nice that so many people have sent their well wishes to Australia, but we have to do more than that. Hopefully, we can be unified and actually make some changes… Sometimes we have to take that responsibility on ourselves and make changes and sacrifices in our own lives,” he said. “We don’t have to take private jets to Palm Springs for the awards.”
It pointed out the elephant in the room: That for all the talk about climate change and the need for action, an awards show itself must have a massive carbon footprint (though this year’s first-ever vegan meal was a step in the right direction). There are the private jets, the black cars, the teams of people, the energy required to actually stage the event, the waste… and, of course, the red carpet. We were surprised to find that climate change was rarely a consideration when it came to stars’ looks for the night: Hundreds of celebrities arrived in brand-new, custom, and never-before-worn gowns, and most of those outfits will never be seen on the red carpet again. (The frenzied process of getting those looks to Los Angeles, often at the very last minute, is another thing entirely.)
In light of the crisis in Australia—which we’ve known about since September, FYI—the pomp and circumstance of the red carpet already felt a bit icky. Wasn’t this a golden opportunity to harness its influence and say something about fashion’s role in climate change—to wear something sustainable, upcycled, organic, or vintage? Or to at least illustrate how our daily choices, like what we wear, affect the world around us? Apparently not. The only people who actually did that were Phoenix and his partner, Rooney Mara (both of whom are longtime animal rights activists and vegans). Not only was Phoenix’s black tuxedo made by Stella McCartney, a vegan designer committed to natural and low-impact textiles, but he also plans to re-wear it to every awards show this year. McCartney shared that detail on Instagram, adding: “I am proud and honored to join forces with you Joaquin, keep inspiring and keep shining your light.”
As for Mara, her black lace gown was by Givenchy. Unlike many of her peers who opted for brand-new custom creations, hers was almost a year old: We first saw it on the spring 2019 couture runway last January. As the face of Givenchy’s L’Interdit fragrance, Mara often wears Givenchy runway looks to major awards shows, and she’s likely very engaged with Clare Waight Keller’s recent sustainability efforts. For pre-fall 2020 last month, the designer introduced organic and recycled textiles and spoke about longevity: “We need to wear our clothes for longer. It’s the throwaway aspect [of fashion] which is destructive,” she told Vogue’s Sarah Mower. “So the thought process, particularly in women’s, is to have a quieter sense of permanence.” (When Mara isn’t in Givenchy, she’s almost always wearing Hiraeth, the 100% vegan label she launched with Sara Schloat and Chrys Wong in 2018.)
That gown had a timelessness and subtlety that makes it primed for reuse; we likely wouldn’t notice if another actress wore it a few months from now. Whether or not that happens is the real question; Hollywood is still in the habit of never “repeating” a look, which has a trickle-down effect for consumers who feel they constantly need new things, too.
How surprising would it be if a major actress followed Phoenix’s lead and vowed to wear the same dress to every awards show this year? It would be headline news (and much more noticeable than a tuxedo, which tends to follow a classic formula). We aren’t arguing for that to happen necessarily, but it would be refreshing to see an actress repeat a look from years past, or even a dress another actress has recently worn. That would be the most high-grade example of circularity yet, and would send a message against “the throwaway culture that sees consumers toss away garments after a single use, like they do iced-coffee cups,” as my editor Nicole Phelps wrote last year. As much as the sustainability conversation has grown in the fashion industry, it’s celebrities that can really move the needle. Here’s hoping we see more of them making these thoughtful, environmentally conscious choices at the awards shows to come.
See Every Look From the 2020 Golden Globe Awards Red Carpet:
Golden Globes 2020: Fashion—Live From the Red Carpet