Red Carpet Green Dress: Catalyst For A Revolution


Suzy Amis Cameron and James Cameron reveal Jillian Granz's winning sustainable dress at Global Green's Pre-Oscar Party. Photo: Cerraeh Laykin

I know, the dress looks blue—Avatar blue to be exact. But, it's actually about 85% green. The Red Carpet Green Dress Contest was created by Suzy Amis Cameron, wife of Avatar director James Cameron, to send a message that one can wear green on the red carpet. In addition to designing Oscar-worthy gowns out of sustainable fabrics, the contest also serves as an international fundraiser event for her beloved MUSE Elementary.

The project has ignited an unexpected revolution.MUSE Elementary, a non-profit, educational, organization in Topanga, California, was founded by Suzy Amis Cameron and her sister Rebecca in 2006. The school is dedicated to empowering children to realize the full potential of their lives through academic excellence, personal responsibility, compassionate relations, global consciousness and environmental awareness.

What's not to love? It is essential that we raise our kids in such a way that it is second nature for them to respect themselves,each other,and the planet. Supporting this competition in turn supports our future generations.

Red Carpet Green Dress provides the opportunity for amateur designers to contribute to this excellent cause, while creating a black-tie dress made of natural, organic, or sustainable materials. It also encourages these future designers to estimate carbon footprints when creating their clothing lines.

What better incentive to designers to do their research into sustainable design, and incorporate their findings into the project, than to offer the coveted worldwide spotlight of the red carpet at the Oscars? It's genius.


Suzy Amis Cameronin her sustainable gown with husband
James Cameron at The Academy Awards.

Amis Cameron commented:

This is just the beginning. Every year we will choose a progressive Oscar nominee, to represent sustainable fashion by participating in the competition. We intend to keep a focus on keeping sustainability in the spotlight, and what better or bigger way to get the attention of the fashion industry, as well as the general public, than the Oscars?

The winner of the first Red Carpet Green Dress contest was Jillian Granz, a 21-year-old fashion student at Michigan State University. The gown was first revealed at the Global Green Pre-Oscar Party, hosted by the Camerons.

The dress, which consists of approximately 85% sustainable materials, is made from a blend of peace silk and hemp silk. The "Avatar Blue" silk chiffon makes up the remaining 15% that was not able to be sourced via sustainable suppliers due to time constraints and the lack of availability of a non-toxic dye that could create that special blue. The team decided not to dye the lining of the dress for that reason.

Academy Award-winning costume designer Deborah Scott was brought in to actualize the design. Sourcing for the materials began, and a "can of worms" was opened. The team was surprised by the limited options available for couture fabrics.

The winning dress of the first RCGD competition,
designed by Jillian Granz. Image credit: Brandon Hickman

Scott explained:

When we started sourcing the fabrics we learned very quickly that it is a complicated issue. Sustainable textiles are much more attainable in every day casual wear, than in couture.

For example, they learned that while the worms creating the peace silk were not being killed in the production of the fabric, much of the peace silk in the market was made using child labor. In some cases, the kids were given slingshots to kill the birds that attempted to eat the worms. Not quite the kind of sustainable the designers had in mind.


Amis Cameron wearing the peace, hemp silk blend lining. Image credit: Brandon Hickman

If the goal is to create a sustainable dress for the world stage, using child labor and killing birds should not, dare I say it, be the model. "Fashion", Scott said, "has become an important social and environmental issue...it's like the revolution in food, you can find organic everywhere now, and a lot of people understand why it's important."

Now it's time to add fashion to the discussion on a much larger scale.


Amis Cameron wearing the peace, hemp silk blend
lining. Image credit: Brandon Hickman

The contest awakened the team to the fact that sustainable textiles, especially high-end ones, are not in great supply in the current market. Realizing this, they became inspired to do something about it. They called together a group of seasoned "Eco Warrior Chicks and a Dude"—a group made up of some of the most active and vocal advocates of eco fashion—to help with the dilemma.

The Revolution

Eco Warrior Chicks and a Dude. From left to right: Craig Laforest, Caitlin Bristol, Jillian Granz, Christiana Wyly, Marci Zaroff, Suzy Amis Cameron, Heidi Pettit, Zem Joaquin, Rebecca Rogers, Magda Rod, Linda Greer, and Anna Carter (not pictured).

The think tank was created and held its first meeting just days before The Academy Awards. Ideas and resources are being shared ,and a game plan is now being discussed about how to solve the monumental issues surrounding greening over the fashion industry.

The research done by The NRDC,where Amis Cameron has served on the leadership council for nearly four years, finds that the textile industry is one of the biggest culprits in the fashion industry's contribution to pollution. NRDC scientist Linda Greer, senior scientist and director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's public health program, created the Clean By Design Initiative to combat the issue.

Greer commented

There's a saying that goes around in China,"You can tell what color is in fashion this season by looking at the rivers."

Craig Laforest, director of development and global programs for Muse Elementary and co-creator of Red Carpet Green Dress, explained:

Part of the problem is that there is a fear in the industry that there's no acceptable alternatives to the currently used materials and practices. We need to deconstruct the ideas about what fashion should be, how fashion is made, and re-educate the industry. It becomes a socio-economic discussion as well.

So, just as Avatar has become a call to gather "the tribe" of eco-warriors to raise consciousness and work to save the planet, the Red Carpet Green Dress Contest has brought together this band of "Eco Warrior Chicks and a Dude"—one tribe that is out to give a green makeover to the fashion industry.

It's a big task for sure, but how do you sew a couture gown anyway? One stitch at a time.

Read more about sustainable fashion:
How to Go Green: Wardrobe
Copy This Look: America Ferrara at The Emmys
Ten-Year-Old Fashion Designer with an Eco-Conscience
8 Green Ideas Revolutionizing Fashion Manufacturing

Tags: Clothing | Sustainable Fabrics

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