Livia Firth’s Green Carpet Challenge (by Leonora Oppenheim)


Two years ago who knew that the real wife of Mark Darcy was not Bridget Jones but Livia Firth?

Jardins Florian editor had had the pleasure and privilege of meeting Livia as she had started her own ecological shop in Chiswick (London) and was becoming more and more active within the ethical fashion community.

Suddenly, with her friend Lucy Siegle, came the idea of using the "red" carpet events she was to attend with her husband-actor Colin Firth, to promote a "greener" way of dressing up for such glamorous events! The "green" carpet challenge was born and the rest is history.

We immediately wrote to Livia, inviting her to not only show small ethical labels but to collaborate with couture and high fashion brands. This year it has happened and we are mesmerized as suddenly it seems natural for all the big fashion houses to embrace more sustainable fabrics, processes and to do so with a smile.

Grazie mille to Livia who has been able to make this challenge fun, exciting and effective! We let our latest and amazing contributor, Leonora Oppenheim (see her biography after the article), tell you the story of this outstanding 2012 "Green Carpet Challenge" and explain its significance!

Merci beaucoup Leonora.

Jardins Florian editor

Livia Firth’s Green Carpet Challenge spreads its fashion wings and flies

by Leonora Oppenheim

Colin & Livia Firth (12 Feb. 2012 Source GQ - Getty)

There was exciting news from the BAFTA awards ceremony on Sunday night, although it wasn’t the award winners who got our pulses racing. While I’m sure many are delighted that The Artist swept the board, we’re more interested in the red carpet sideshow that is the Green Carpet Challenge. If you haven’t yet heard of Livia Firth’s ethical fashion project then let us enlighten you, because her positive influence is growing with each red carpet event she attends.

Vogue, The Telegraph and many popular blogs such as Ecorazzi have covered Sunday’s Green Carpet Challenge triumph, but it seemed appropriate to write something more in depth here about why the GCC is proving to be a winning formula. I think Jardins Florian embodies the essence of this inspiring formula, blending luxury, quality design, and strong ethical values to make truly beautiful products inside and out. Thanks to Jardins Florian for inviting me to write about my take on GCC here.

While this week Colin Firth is celebrating his film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy picking up awards for Outstanding British Film and Best Adapted Screenplay, his wife Livia is celebrating the column inches dedicated to her foray into greening other celebrities’ glamorous wardrobes. Not only did Livia herself turn up in a beautiful ethical fashion outfit, as she has done at every red carpet event for two years now, she also helped dress three big names: her husband Colin, Michael Fassbender who was up for best actor and Viola Davis up for best actress.

Michael Fassbender  (12 Feb. 2012 Source GQ - Getty)

Unfortunately neither Michael nor Viola took a BAFTA home, but they were both rewarded with kudos for their sartorial efforts, showing film and fashion fans alike that ethical clothing can be stylish and sexy whilst earning you serious respect. While this is not news to the people working in ethical  fashion, it is true to say that for many years we’ve bemoaned the lack of aspirational superstar support the cause needed to penetrate the public consciousness.


Viola Davis (12 Feb. 2012 Source GQ - Getty)

Yes, there are the hard working champions that have revolutionised the way ethical fashion is seen in its own industry. Some important names to mention are Orsola De Castro and Filippo Ricci who founded the Estethica show at London Fashion Week in 2006 and the model, campaigner, and now ethical fashion entrepreneur Summer Rayne Oakes, who is unstoppable in the US. These forces have, in turn, built on the work of pioneers such as Katharine Hamnett and unsung heroes such as Lynda Grose, both of whom have been working at the grassroots of sustainable fashion, with cotton famers as well as fashion labels, for decades.

Yes, we were pleased when top models Erin O’connor and Lily Cole began to raise awareness of the environmental and social issues in the garment industry, but still the kings and queens of fashion seemed untouched by the undercurrent of concern about where our clothes come from.

Yes, we got excited when Vivienne Westwood joined the outspoken ranks, but while the grand dame of British fashion is justly celebrated for her inventive eccentric style, it soon became clear that her rhetoric in fabric didn’t perfectly translate to the real world campaign.

Livia Firth, by contrast, is that priceless combination of down to earth and glamorous, intelligent and approachable, entrepreneurial and light hearted. These are the qualities that ensure her success as an ambassador for ethical fashion. Well that, and the husband, of course. I don’t want to play down her individual influence. It was after all her idea, together with Guardian journalist and TV presenter Lucy Siegle, to create the Green Carpet Challenge. But it is important to underline the fact that without Colin in tow the effect and impact would not be the same.

The concept of the Green Carpet Challenge is extremely savvy, matching the glittering worlds of fashion and film together in the perfect photo opportunity on the world’s biggest fashion stage – the Red Carpet. Being the spouse of a filmstar is usually seen as an unfortunate role, which mostly involves standing in the shadow of the Paparazzi’s lens. It is a huge credit to Livia that she has interpreted her position in the spotlight as chance for creative campaigning.

After two years of Livia walking the red carpet in a range of experimental ethical gowns by young designers, the really exciting thing about the Green Carpet Challenge is where it’s headed next. In January Livia threw down a huge trump card at the Golden Globes where she appearing in a stunning Giorgio Armani gown made out of a recycled satin fabric. This was not a “brave choice”, this was fashion gold. Livia had persuaded one of the fashion kings to put his own name to the cause.

One of the brilliantly clever things about GCC is the suspense that it holds everyone in for each event. So now the bar has been raised to such great heights who will jump in the ring next? Donatella? Karl? Miuccia? Suddenly, thanks to Livia, the big boys and girls of fashion have been handed a golden opportunity to stand out from the endless rustling sea of red carpet gowns whilst boosting their ‘caring’ credentials. But still, I hear you ask, just how many ethical gowns can one beautiful clotheshorse wear?

(Editor's note: According to Vogue UK: "TOM FORDChanelGiorgio ArmaniGucciYves Saint Laurent and Stella McCartney, amongst others, have signed up to Livia Firth's Green Carpet Challenge this year")

Knowing that one woman’s campaign isn’t enough to change an industry Livia and Lucy Siegle are now taking the GCC to scale by bringing more star power on board. Last month Livia tested the waters at the Golden Globes by dressing Elizabeth McGovern, her friend and star of Downton Abbey, in a Henrietta Ludgate ethical wool dress. Then Sunday night’s BAFTAS saw a quadruple GCC whammy with Livia in a sleek organic wool Paul Smith tuxedo. Colin Firth and Michael Fassbender both in Giorgio Armani ethical wool tuxedos with accents in recycled fabric, and Viola Davis was radiant in a recycled satin gown by another fashion king - Valentino. It is clear that the next step for GCC is to simultaneously infiltrate Hollywood and high fashion.

Livia Firth in Paul Smith, with Paul Smith (Picture: Will Whipple)

Intriguingly at the BAFTA’s there was a fifth ethical fashion advocate on the red carpet. At first it was thought that Michelle Williams, dressed in a beautiful organic H&M gown, was part of the GCC camp. But, as it turned out, according to Grazia, she had been approached separately by the high street clothing giant. This unexpected turn of events shows that not only is Livia Firth spreading GCC’s wings by rounding up the star troops herself, but she is also inspiring other labels and actors to make their own ethical fashion statements on the red carpet. We really can’t wait to see who will be wearing what at the Oscars, a week on Sunday. Suddenly, after years of ball gown boredom, Livia Firth is making the Red Carpet something to watch again. All power to her. 

Michelle Williams (12 Feb. 2012 Source Grazia)



Leonora Oppenheim

Editor's note: Leonora calls herself a "Design Storyteller" which is a beautiful and rich expression but she is definitely even more than that. She is actually one of the writers who have greatly contributed to educating readers on sustainability and to making such a topic both fun and respected. She is very subtle and infinitely curious about the world, people and businesses. Just to mention a few of the very impressive websites she has written for: Planet Green, TreeHugger, and CoolHunting. But she is also a creative consultant and designer which reinforces her credibility & understanding.

Follow her on

For a more comprehensive bio you will find below the Elio Studio one:

"Leonora Oppenheim is a design storyteller. Which is a neat way of saying she uses word, image and form to portray local cultural, environmental and community stories to wider audiences.

In short, she's passionate about provoking discussion and debate through creativity.

From working on plans for a chocolate factory with cacao farmers in the Ecuadorian Amazon to reporting on biogas toilets from the mountains of northern Ethiopia, Leonora has many a tale to tell of her adventurous and inspiring encounters with creative minds around the world.

As director of Elio Studio, Leonora crafts her narratives in collaboration with architects, designers, curators and scientists. Together their creative projects promote engaging conversations around social and environmental issues in public spaces.

Leonora also regularly puts finger to key to tell epic tales of design derring and sustainability do for and other online and print publications."