MILAN—Livia Firth, founder of Eco Age, is perhaps one of the fiercest proponents of ethical and sustainable fashion in the world. With the help of Italy's fashion chamber and its president Carlo Capasa, the Green Carpet Fashion Awards took place at Milan's La Scala opera house where pillars of the community like Giorgio Armani, Anna Wintour, Alessandro Michele, and Miuccia Prada mingled with Hollywood A-listers like Dakota Johnson, Colin Firth and Andrew Garfield in one bowl of crimson velvet.
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By uniting Hollywood and Italy's vanguard fashion labels to promote the cause, Firth and Capasa may have found the secret sauce to achieving a 360 degree sustainable industry.
Because of the waste caused by mountains of unwanted fast fashion garments and the dyes and chemicals used that pollute natural water supplies throughout the world, fashion is one of the major polluters on earth.
"Our national resources are finite," Gisele Bündchen said after receiving the Vogue Eco Laureate award for her work as a United Nations Goodwill ambassador and her Amazon clean water project Projeto Água Limpa. "This is the beginning of a new tomorrow. Sustainable fashion can lead the way."
Despite warning signs, commercial brands and emerging designers have been slow to rise to the sustainable cause. Mostly due to poor networking with materials among fabric companies, with scientists and engineers driving the innovation behind the change. Another factor is that sustainable fabrics simply cost more.
Major fashion players have fallen short in educating consumers about their sustainable practices. Max Mara, for example, incorporates Newlife TM made from up-cycled plastic bottles in its Weekend Collection, while Gucci has been known to use high quality up-cycled fabric off cuts re-woven into its collections.
Capasa has been a huge crusaider for the cause in Italy, challenging brands to go sustainable. "We must go totally sustainable. We don't have a choice," Capasa said in an earlier interview.
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At the ceremony also sponsored in part by Parma's shopping mall Fidenza Village, artisans were also honored. The seamstresses of Maison Valentino, who craft the house's red carpet gowns by hand, received a heartfelt standing ovation. The founder Valentino Garavani has said in his memoirs that they are the secret to his success. This was also echoed by his successor Pierpaolo Piccioli on stage who wore a white robe to match the team to show his admiration for their dedication and skill.
Other winners included the owners of New Life Yarns, as the Como-based Taroni silk mill, and a Sardinian woman named Chiara Vigo, the only artisan in the world that makes silk out of clam fibers.
Emerging designer Tiziano Guardini received the Franca Sozzani GCC award for best emerging designer. Other nominees included Co|Te, Matea Benedetti of Matea, and Leo Macina of Leo Studio – all up-and-comers who have embraced sustainability and are committed to working under an ethical ethos for years to come.
"For me, sustainability and not creating waste and polluting the earth has always been a part of my credo. Thanks to technology, that is now possible," Macina said.
"Italian textile makers are really working hard to put forth sustainable offerings. As designers, we are not only trying to eliminate waste but also design our fashions in a way that eliminates the use of metals and plastics. It's the future. It's our future and our message we want young designers to hear," CO|TE Tomaso Anfossi and Francesco Ferrari said.
The event Firth coined the "Academy Awards of Sustainable Fashion" closed with Prada, Michele, Giorgio Armani, and Pierpaolo Piccioli standing side by side in silence onstage in acceptance of the CNMI Sustainability Award – a striking sign of fashion's solidarity with the cause.