Ball gowns in living rooms and social messaging in dresses—some of fashion’s biggest nights out get a meaningful update that can inspire real change.
Awards season in 2020 began on a mindful note. Vintage dresses on the red carpet, in particular, along with sustainable guides (at the BAFTAs), enjoyed the spotlight early on. There was Jennifer Anniston’s vintage Dior white satin bias cut gown from John Galliano’s days at the house in 1999 and it was a vintage Chanel couture dress for Margot Robbie at the 92nd Oscars red carpet. Statement-making fashion on the red carpet—sustainable materials, pre-loved pieces and re-worn outfits—seemed like the way forward, as millions around the world waited for the events, and gowns, to unfold. But just weeks later, as nations went under lockdown, the outbreak of COVID-19 changed the way red-carpet events would be conceived for the rest of the year.
Going forward, attendees and organisers saw the red carpet going two ways: indefinitely postponed until large public gatherings and international travel was safe again, or to go virtual. While the two of the biggest names on the international circuit, the Met Gala and Cannes Film Festival (typically held in early May and June respectively) took the former route, the second half of the year saw an innovative comeback.
Masks, socially-distanced greetings and red-carpet-from-home
On September 2, Venice Film Festival rolled out the red carpet, after a months-long absence of glittering gowns and flashing photographers. As the first international film festival since the coronavirus pandemic began, social distancing was mandated, but the commitment to responsible fashion statements was encouraging. As president of the main competition jury at the prestigious festival, Cate Blanchett championed her green fashion memo in not one, but multiple pre-loved pieces restyled for the nine-day long premieres. Celebrity stylist Elizabeth Stewart’s Instagram handle chronicled the Academy-winning actor’s repurposed Alexander McQueen, Armani Privé and Esteban Cortázar looks (all of which will be auctioned for charity via Red Carpet Advocacy), and the conspicuous disposable face masks. On that subject matter, it was Tilda Swinton’s custom-made gilded metal butterfly face shield that took over the internet and overshadowed her Chanel couture at the opening ceremony.
The new step-and-repeat template was followed by the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, which were held almost entirely virtually and connected through web cams. Fashion wise, it meant that celebrities were invited to dress up in their own homes to the informal theme “come as you are, but make an effort”—announced via a letter sent to all the nominees. While pyjama couture was expected, virtual attendees dialled up the glamour after months of staying in, giving the audiences a much-needed spectacle worthy of typically the biggest night in television. Instead of a pre-show walk, we saw Reese Witherspoon in a classic LBD-and-red-lip ensemble while sipping champagne in her lawn; winner Zendaya’s double evening wear wardrobe by Christopher John Rogers and Armani Privé from her living room, Billy Porter in custom-design draped tuxedo by Ashi Studio from home and Tracee Ellis Ross’ walk down her personal backyard red carpet in a ruffled Alexandre Vauthier dress and matching metallic face mask.
Of holograms, visual effects and augmented reality
Aired most recently, the Green Carpet Fashion Awards transformed their signature venue, the historic opera house Teatro alla Scala, into a dreamy terrarium of cascading foliage. Using cinematic tools such as augmented reality and visual FX, the platform’s fourth edition was presented through a first-of-its-kind digital show produced by an award-winning team. Helmed by Livia Firth of Eco-Age and hosted in collaboration with Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, the event celebrates sustainable style among iconic global stars, influencers and innovative designers, and presented only five awards in design innovation and craftsmanship this year. Along with Zendaya—who won the Visionary title for leading the charge to increase both inclusivity and diversity in fashion–stars such as Maisie Williams, Colin Firth, Iman, Cate Blanchett, Lewis Hamilton and host Robert Downey Jr appeared, some even as holograms.
Firth’s Green Carpet Challenge came alive with celebrities on a digital version of the star-studded event, which were available to watch on the platform website. Some highlights included Alexa Chung in a gold Prada dress from 2016, Tomi Adeyemi’s orange wrap dress made by Valentino with certified sustainable chiffon and winner Zendaya in a vintage chocolate brown Gianni Versace piece from 1996, the year she was born. She “walked” the carpet from Los Angeles and made an appearance in Milan in one night—such is the highly-powered connectivity that brings the community together to celebrate fashion and creativity, while presenting a window of opportunity for real change.