Petra Nemcova in Cristina Ottaviano

NEW APPROACH: Model and philanthropist Petra Nemcova has spent two weeks in Cannes attending red-carpet events and premieres in sustainably made gowns and accessories.

As the festival comes to a close, Nemcova said she has seen the message of sustainability grow stronger than ever on the Cannes red carpet and that a shift in mind-set has been brewing throughout the film festival, on the part of celebrities, designers and stylists alike.

“I’ve been seeing things change in the last two weeks, more than ever. Just before the festival, there was also the Met Gala, where models like Gisele Bündchen wore sustainable gowns, so everything is coming together,” said Nemcova, who teamed with Chopard and eco-campaigner Livia Firth on the project to encourage designers to rethink the ways they design for the red carpet, as part of Firth’s ongoing “Green Carpet Challenge” initiative.

“It might not be for everyone but the last weeks were so important for this movement and it’s inevitable that more and more stylists will now start looking for sustainable choices,” added Nemcova, who was joined by the likes of Cate Blanchett and Penélope Cruz in her mission to promote sustainable red-carpet dressing.

Petra Nemcova in Ronald Van der Kemp

Petra Nemcova in Ronald van der Kemp.  Courtesy Photo

Blanchett attended the festival’s opening ceremony in a Giorgio Armani Privé gown that she wore to the Golden Globes in 2014, while Cruz wore Atelier Swarovski jewelry created with Fair Trade gold and man-made diamonds.

Nemcova, a global ambassador for Chopard, worked with a wide range of designers, including the likes of Ronald van der Kemp, Celia Kritharioti, Elie Saab, Georges Chakra and Cristina Ottaviano. The aim of the project was to make a “big statement” using Cannes as a platform and to showcase a wide range of looks, from day to eveningwear.

As the industry is rethinking its ways and attempting to become less wasteful, Nemcova sees the red carpet as “one of the biggest platforms” to promote sustainability.

“There is a misconception that sustainability is all about casual, organic cotton T-shirts and we have to break this pattern of thinking by showcasing these beautiful, sustainably made gowns on the red carpet. Everything has to become a conscious choice otherwise the ripple effect of our actions will always be detrimental,” she added.

Petra Nemcova in Celia Kritharioti

Petra Nemcova in Celia Kritharioti.  David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

For designers, the challenge was finding the right fabric or the right color to realize their visions. “It was a question of ‘Will there be enough choice?’ But through the process we opened their eyes to the possibilities out there and many of them were amazed at the quality of organic fabrics; organic silk, for example, is softer and has more stretch,” the model explained, pointing to the importance of education.

Firth’s involvement in educating designers on where to look for the right fabrics and on the benefits of sustainable production was a key step forward, according to Nemcova, who recalls finding it impossible to achieve similar results when she first tried 10 years ago.

“It was really hard to find good options, the dresses were mostly linen and it wasn’t practical for the purpose of my work,” she added.

Petra Nemcova in Elie Saab

Petra Nemcova in Elie Saab  Courtesy Photo

Sustainable red-carpet dressing is becoming a much more viable idea and Firth believes that the day where mainstream, red-carpet events will only feature sustainable looks is “around the corner.”

“All of our Green Carpet Challenge looks in Cannes this year highlight the strides that designers and stylists are taking. Each look moves us further down the road toward a sustainable industry,” said Firth.

Post-Cannes, Nemcova plans to continue working with Firth as a judge at her upcoming Green Carpet Challenge event in July, where a new crop of designers will be tasked to create sustainable gowns. She is also set to release a TV series titled “Click My Closet” later this month, where she will showcase brands on their way to sustainability, alongside her stylist Joanne Black.

Petra Nemcova in Georges Chakra

Petra Nemcova in Georges Chakra.  Courtesy Photo