Images, from left: A sketch of Livia's 2015 Met Gala gown in recycled polyester by Anonio Berardi, A sketch of Livia's 2017 Met Gala gown in Piñatex® pinapple leather by Laura Strambi.
A decade ago Livia Firth was busy setting up her London based environmental business, (that became Eco-Age as we know it today) and I was an eco columnist for the Observer (a sort of agony aunt for the planet). I can still remember the conversation – or at least parts of it - as we surveyed Livia’s diary, blocked out for the Awards Season, beginning with the Golden Globes. If you live for red carpets and spending half a day being tended to by a glam squad before being ordered into an outfit by a harassed stylist and then squalked at by a reporter who wants to know ‘who are you wearing?’ before trying to remember, the awards season I’m sure is a tremendous opportunity. But if you do not live for this type of interaction, you’d probably look forward to it with all the enthusiasm of someone approaching an appointment for root canal. This is the vibe I was getting from Livia.
What there was enthusiasm for was our particular obsession, the reform of the fashion industry. We soon moved on from impending Hollywood doom, and talked about a designer we’d made contact with in the US who was dying a hemp mix fabric with indigo grown in his garden, then we started looking through some fabric samples of novel fibres made from waste products from the food industry – a protein from whey and crab shells. Livia always maintains that I challenged her, but I remember it as being like a cartoon where two characters get the same idea at the same time. ‘Runway, ethical fashion, designers, challenge them, showcase, platform for, hemp silk, repurpose,’ some sort of word cloud appeared. Then the more formal declaration, ‘Livia, I challenge you to do the entire awards season wearing only sustainable design.’ I had her attention. The Green Carpet Challenge was born.