A Better, Greener World

December 17th, 2012

ROME — When Livia Firth first stepped out onto the red carpet in 2009, with her Oscar-winning husband Colin Firth, the idea of wearing a green outfit would have been seen as a celebrity color choice.

Shaun Cox/BFC

Livia Firth, left, wearing a design by Roksanda Ilincic, right, at the British Fashion Awards in London.

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But the “green” dress code that Ms. Firth invented had nothing to do with tints and shades. It was part of a dynamic initiative to use her husband’s fame and her conviction to ally the world of celebrity to the cause of sustainability and ethics in fashion.

For the “Green Carpet Challenge,” Ms. Firth’s mission is to get stars to wear clothes that support companies with an ethos of sustainability, not as a gimmick, but as a long-term strategy. Ms. Firth, who runs an on-line magazine and a store with an offering of sustainable products, at www.eco-age.com, has persuaded a number of stars to come out for a better and greener world.

“No-one wants to wear hemp and sandals,” Ms. Firth said, referring to the cliché of a worthy woman dressed to proclaim an interest in good causes.

On the contrary, the stars supported green projects this year in the most glamorous of gowns: Julianne Moore, wearing a bright green dress by Tom Ford to the premiere of the HBO movie “Game Change,” Meryl Streep in a gilded dress from Lanvin at the Academy Awards and Viola Davis in a Valentino gown made from recycled soda bottles at London’s Bafta movie awards show. Javier Bardem wore a bespoke eco tuxedo by Gucci to the premiere of “Skyfall.” They were just a few of those who took up the challenge on those star-sprinkled “runways.”

Even royal names have come forward to support Ms. Firth’s cause. Mette-Marit, crown princess of Norway, wore a sustainable Pucci dress to a royal wedding in Luxembourg in October. Prince Charles of England, long a supporter of respecting nature and the environment, said the fashion initiative proved that those beliefs can go needle-and-thread with beautiful clothes.

“It is only by inspiring people that a sustainable future is not about sackcloth and ashes,” Charles said in a message of support for the Livia Firth “Green Cut” project that began in September, “but about attaining an infinitely more balanced approach that works in harmony with nature; that we stand a chance of securing a stable environment for our children and grandchildren.”

Ms. Firth is a softly-softly but determined activist and she does not define her initiative as “philanthropy.” She calls herself a “facilitator” to create links between the movie and fashion industries.

In Rome, her birthplace, and where she studied film and theater in college, Ms. Firth spoke about the “Green Cut” initiative that she said was already spreading across the luxury world.

“Although it can be described as philanthropy,” she said, “if it is aligned with the very core activity of any given company, it can make commercial and economic sense. We need to create what you call “good business for a good planet” independently from philanthropy.

“If we keep thinking that ‘doing good’ is only a responsibility of a philanthropic strategy of a company, we will never change the business model,” she said. “The fashion industry encompasses all industries, from agriculture to communication, and therefore has a huge impact on the environment, on trade and on social justice.”

The winners at the annual British Fashion Awards last month included Roksanda Ilincic, who won the Red Carpet Award (she also dressed Ms. Firth in a vivid blue “green” dress made from re-cycled fabric), and Stella McCartney, whose work for fashion that does not harm living creatures has proved that sustainability is both stylish and sexy.

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