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Sustainable fashion will be in the spotlight at this year's Oscars red carpet


Who are you wearing? A question that stars have had to field every year on the red carpet at the Oscars, and they'll be endlessly scrutinized - best dressed, worst dressed and this year, maybe most sustainable. The Academy Awards are partnering with the organization Red Carpet Green Dress to encourage attendees at this year's ceremony to make their outfits better for the planet. Samata Pattinson is CEO of RCGD Global, and she joins us now. Welcome to the program.

SAMATA PATTINSON: Hi. Thank you for having me.

RASCOE: Thanks for being here. So what does your style guide ask Oscar attendees to do for sustainability?

PATTINSON: We recognize that the conversation - it's a popular conversation. It's one that's happening in rooms and houses across the world. But not everybody really understands what it looks like in the fashion world, and so what we've tried to do is introduce the topic in a way that's accessible and show that there are so many ways that they can participate and show even a level of consideration towards people and planet that won't inconvenience them in any way, you know, one that is about a conversation.

RASCOE: So what do you advise them or recommend that they do? Is it about wearing vintage? Or what type of suggestions are you making?

PATTINSON: Yeah. So we cover quite a wide gamut. We touch on things from the technical perspective, so looking for gowns that are made with certain textiles, looking for gowns that are dyed in certain ways. But we also talk about rewearing, considering looking at vintage. But we also even give them advice about going with designers that are from, you know, marginalized groups. You know, sustainability is about social issues, as well.

RASCOE: Some fashion brands have been accused of greenwashing, basically using the environment as an advertising point without really making changes. I mean, how can you make sure that this isn't just, like, feel-good talk, and it's, like, actually something that's, like, making a difference?

PATTINSON: Yeah. Well, we're really fortunate because we work behind the scenes with the brands, as well. Like, we have a very passionate framework that touches on everything from certifications and human hands and transparency across to materials and biodiversity, textile waste. We're very intentional with who we work with and where they are in their journey. But for those brands that are early on in their journey, we're all about solutions. We're all about, OK, this isn't - what you're doing isn't working, or this thing that you're focusing on isn't working. We need you to be aware and educate yourselves about the solution so that you can actually make meaningful change. We're relying on honest dialogue, you know, with everyone that we work with.

RASCOE: You know, most of us can't go to a couture brand and borrow something from the archives. And a very small percentage of clothing that's given to thrift stores actually gets sold. So what does sustainable fashion look like on a budget?

PATTINSON: I think sustainable fashion as a definition has been misdefined, but actually, sustainability is something that is in communities and always has been. It's sharing clothing within family. It's clothes swaps. It's resale platforms. But we do need more sustainable solutions that are accessible across all price points for everybody. At the same time, we've been sold a bit of a lie because the cheapest fashion - you know, getting a dress with embroidery on for, say, $13 is subsidized by somebody at the other end of the chain. That's just - the time that they used to create that gown - they're not being remunerated fairly.

RASCOE: There is this idea that luxury brands are more sustainable, but that's not really necessarily true. So then, you know, when you have a celebrity, they're going to go for the luxury brands. So how do you deal with that issue?

PATTINSON: No, absolutely, and that is a fallacy, 100%. I think what we've tried to focus on is aligning with brands who have set not just sustainability goals but measurable metric systems to measure where they were five years ago, where they are today and where they plan to be five years on from now. And that requires even a participation in known and recognized entities. You know, we have these transparency indexes. And they actually show that, you know, a large percentage of luxury brands are not disclosing information and that some of those kind of the lowest scores in that index are from some of the top luxury brands in the industry. And we have issues of them burning and destroying unsold goods. So there is a callout that needs to happen, and I just - I really wanted to reiterate that there is a callout to luxury brands to address those issues which are, you know, harmful to the environment and harmful to the general cause of sustainability.

RASCOE: That's Samata Pattinson, CEO of Red Carpet Green Dress Global. Thank you so much for joining us.

PATTINSON: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.