To say Livia Firth is passionate about greening the fashion industry would be an understatement. Sure, she fancies walking the red carpet sustainably on the arm of her Oscar-winning husband Colin Firth, but she’s more concerned with helping others transform their approach to style — causing a ripple effect felt throughout the fashion world.
Indeed, Livia’s Green Carpet Challenge is shaking up the red carpet in all the right ways. For this year’s Oscars, she recruited Best Actress winner Meryl Streep, who wore Lanvin’s first-ever custom-made eco gown. Academy Awards Supporting Actor nominee Kenneth Branagh and Academy Awards Leading Actor nominee Demian Bichir also welcomed Livia’s challenge, as did Colin, of course, who reused the Tom Ford suit he wore when he won Best Actor Oscar last year.
Fresh off the green carpet at the Oscars, and after a night dancing away at Madonna’s after party, Livia opens up about her new designs under her own name; goals for Eco-Age.com and the Green Carpet Challenge; the bright red stunner she wore to this year’s Oscars; and how she thinks about fashion in a very Italian way.
Lindsay: I must ask about your bright red gown made using recycled polyester from plastic bottles. You were stunning. Why did you go with Valentino? Who were your accessories by?
Livia: Valentino is another Italian fashion institution and I always loved his work. When I was in Paris for Haute Couture week, sitting on the front row of his show, I felt like Cinderella when she goes to the Palace for the ball. And I felt like Cinderella when I walked the Oscars’ red, or should I say green, carpet as well!
My jewellery was designed by Calleja. My shoes and bag were by Roger Vivier. I have a soft spot for Bruno Frisoni, the Creative Director, who has also enrolled in the Challenge – we have been working on materials for a while now and hope to unveil his first dedicated GCC pieces soon!
Lindsay: How exciting! In recent posts on Eco-Age.com and Vogue’s blog, you wrote, “The GCC this year is not just about turning red carpets a bit greener, but opening doors for and to the fashion industry.” How are you and the Green Carpet Challenge accomplishing this?
Livia: Our team is amazing – I am the “face” of it and the “ball breaker” (this is my nickname, apparently) but behind the scenes there is the very detailed and serious work of Lucy Siegle and Jocelyn Whipple, and the rest of the team at Eco Age. We have also recently joined forces with Giusy Bettoni at C.L.A.S.S. and are in the process of creating a big GCC fabric library- it will be the first in the world. We are building bridges with the big fashion designers and working together on this process. Also I couldn’t have done it without American Express- this year’s sponsors, as without them all of this would not have been possible and I cannot thank them enough.
Lindsay: What other celebrities and friends have caught the Green Carpet Challenge bug?
Livia: The ones who have done it already are Viola Davis and Michael Fassbender at the Baftas’ in London, and Meryl Streep, Demian Bichir, and Kenneth Branagh at the Oscars this year. We are hoping that many more will enroll in the next few months.
Lindsay: You just launched your first-ever design under your own name. Congratulations! Where have you sourced all of your materials? Did this feel like a natural step for you?
Livia: I am a creative person but never had the courage to embrace it completely. It was Gary Harvey (the designer who did my Oscar dress last year) who really pushed me. One day he said: “You should do it Livia! You know exactly what you like and this is the most important thing for a designer!”
Last year I played with the idea a bit, designing a limited edition shopper bag for Whistles and a heart necklace (produced in Nairobi again with recycled brass and natural soapstone). This year I decided to try harder and produce pieces which I would want to wear and were missing from my wardrobe. We kick off with a skull necklace (available here) which is made in the UK from recycled bronze. Each skull is made individually, by hand. It wasn’t easy to go through the sourcing process but after few months, we made it! We will launch LFD (Livia Firth Design) brand in September with few more pieces to add to your sustainable cupboard – there are few surprises in store…
Lindsay: Have you always been so passionate about sustainable fashion?
Livia: I think so. Or at least I have been thinking about fashion in a very “Italian” way – at a slower pace, with an eye to quality and durability and not paying such close attention to trends. I would say “sustainable’ in a classic way rather than “sustainable” in a green way, per se. If you buy quality pieces and are not too extravagant, chances are they will be in your wardrobe for a long time. Obviously when we started the Eco Age adventure, I had to study, research and learn a lot. Meeting Lucy Siegle, Jocelyn Whipple and Orsola De Castro and starting to work with them changed my fashion life forever. You can’t read a book like “To Die For: Is fashion wearing out the world?” which Lucy wrote, without seriously reconsidering your entire attitude towards fashion forever.
Lindsay: I’ll have to read that one. How did your Eco-Age shop in London, which Starre has visited, evolve into your site, Eco-Age.com? What are your goals for Eco-Age?
Livia: This was a natural process as well. Life changes, markets change, people’s habits change – and as a businessperson you need to keep your eyes wide open. People nowadays shop mostly online and we wanted to reach as many people as possible. We did not have the resources to open tons of shops all over the world, so we decided to open a big one online. It will be launched at the end of April and it is going to be wonderful I hope! At the same time though, when you have a shop on the high street, you can engage with your customer, talk to them, tell them the stories behind the products. Without a physical shop, we decided to move the stories online –and that’s how the new phase of eco-age.com came about: a dedicated magazine for the curious consumer and a global online shop stocking lots of gorgeous eco brands. It starts from the end of April this year!
Livia: I should say my skull necklace as I am obsessed with it! But also a piece which is not entirely green – my Joseph black leggings, which I bought 2 years ago and have been wearing almost every single day of my life since. I consider this pretty sustainable no?!
Lindsay: I’d say so! Now here’s a question I’m dying to know: Who do you idolize in — and out — of the fashion industry?
Livia: Many people and it would be hard to name few. I mostly idolize the people with whom I work (Lorna, Lucy, Jocelyn, Miranda, Hannah, Warly and everyone at Eco Age) but also anyone who has the curiosity to look a little bit further. In this instance, I idolize all the designers who have joined the GCC so far…
Lindsay: What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
Livia: It was someone on rollerblades on Venice beach, two years ago, who handed me a sticker that said: “Stop bitching and start a revolution.”
Lindsay: That’s a classic. So when you’re not spending time with your children and husband, meeting with designers, designing yourself, gliding down the green carpet, running Eco Age, or writing, how do you relax and take care of your mind and body?
Livia: I meditate every morning and while I do so, I stretch and do some yoga. 15 minutes max, but it charges my batteries completely. And when I have the chance, I love dancing and will shake it all off to Shakira’s music!
This Heroines for the Planet interview was made possible thanks to the generous support from Neutrogena Naturals.
Image of Livia and Colin Firth at Oscars: GETTY
Image of Livia Firth in skull necklace by Will Whipple.
Images of Livia Firth at Golden Globes by Jason Olive.