Here’s a fun game to play: we talk sustainable fashion, and you try to stay awake through to the end of the sentence. Still there?
We’re kidding, of course. But we’d be lying if we said that for too long, conscious fashion has had a reputation for being not just a snooze, but something best paired with patchouli—the furthest possible thing from what you think of when it comes to mega-wattage red carpets or Parisian ateliers.
Despite the leaps and bounds that’ve been made, making not just the urgency of sustainable dressing clear, but making it look good, is a challenge all too familiar to Emma Watson. “I’ve wanted to move away from calling anything ‘green,’ ‘eco,’ or ‘sustainable,’” Watson explained as we had our way with the contents of her closet during a recent trip to London. “Because those words are very non-descriptive in most ways! It’s very difficult to know what they actually mean.”
While the actor’s been a vocal proponent of conscious dressing for years, she knows part of the power of her platform lies in not just telling, but showing. Enter @the_press_tour, the dedicated Instagram account behind her (scrupulously certified c/o EcoAge) sustainable wardrobe for her ongoing Beauty & the Beast publicity blitz. There’s shot after shot of Watson in far-flung, glamorous locales, from Paris to Shanghai, all with the requisite wardrobe to match. And while the glitzy images might be what draw thousands in, what separates Watson’s recent appearances is the captions that accompany them, like the one detailing how the powder blue Emilia Wickstead princess gown happens to be made from recycled fabrics and by an all-female team, or the Louis Vuitton dress made from recycled polyester created from plastic bottles.
Before it all went down, we got a sneak peek into the heavy lifting that’s gone into Watson’s recent efforts at her London home. After all, what better time than your turn as the lead in a looong-anticipated blockbuster live-action Disney film to really walk the proverbial walk and make some noise about something you really believe in?
“[My interest in sustainable fashion] started when I was in school. I became obsessed with fair trade, and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t standard business practice to pay people fairly for their work. I actually went to Saïd Business School [at Oxford University], and interviewed Dr. Alex Nicholls [Professor of Social Entrepreneurship] for one of my school projects. He introduced me to Safia Minney, who works for People Tree in the UK. I ended up taking a big trip with her out to Bangladesh in 2010. Three years later, the Rana Plaza incident happened, and it reignited my passion all over again. Since then, things like [the documentary] The True Cost came out, and [fair labor practices] have actually become something people are talking about, which is fantastic.”
“I’m still working up to it, but I’m trying to set a challenge of how much sustainable stuff can I wear on the red carpet. I’ve been working with Livia Firth a lot. She does the Green Carpet Challenge, and she has an agency, Eco-Age. It’s been a huge learning curve; really challenging, but really rewarding.”
“I am [big into self-care]. Meditation’s been very good. I’m a big bath girl, I take a bath every day, that’s definitely part of my self-care. There’s a really good brand called Tiki that does the best yoga stuff I’ve ever done yoga in. They have really fun, crazy prints, and it’s all made from recycled plastic bottles.”
“I don’t think it should be niche that the companies we wear clothes from are caring about who works for them or are being conscientious about the environment. [Eco brands are] just doing things I think these companies should be doing anyway.”
“I agree that there’s a dismissiveness [towards sustainable fashion]. And the people that aren’t dismissive are then like, 'It’s so expensive’—you know, ‘I can’t afford something that’s made from organic cotton, or fair trade.’ I’m really surprised at the research I’ve done, that there are actually items that are affordable.”
“It’s actually not just about even what you purchase; it’s about, ‘Whatever you buy, would you wear it thirty times?’ That makes anything ethical and sustainable. That’s really the issue that we have with fashion, that people are buying clothes and throwing them away after wearing them twice, filling land[fills], creating unsafe working conditions. Destroying the planet, essentially.”
“It can actually be a lot simpler than people think. People forget about vintage and secondhand clothes a lot, they forget about buying things that are more durable, or shopping a bit less. Taking care of what you already own, getting shoes resoled. That kind of thing is incredibly sustainable.”
“Over the last couple of months, I’ve tried to ask myself, 'Do I really use this? Do I really want it? Am I going to wear it? How much am I going to wear this?' I think even that is a huge step.”
“The thing that I wear pretty much every day at the moment is a black cashmere turtleneck, from Chinti and Parker. I wear it every day, and it is, like, the softest, warmest hug. Cashmere is incredibly expensive, but it is something I wear day in, day out, that I absolutely love.”
“[Becoming conscious about dressing] has been incredibly liberating in a funny way. It’s narrowed my options so much, I’m so much more creative. I actually really think it’s helped me dress better because I have less, but they’re things that are perfect.”
“I think so much more carefully about what I buy, and I buy less because I edit so carefully. I’m tending to shop online a lot more; I use Instagram [to shop] a lot more than I used to, because I find lots of brands through it. I would often find I was going into stores and feel like, ‘Oh, I’ve only got an hour, I need to buy something, this isn’t what I came in for but it’s here, so I’ll purchase it.’ I never do that now.”
“I love to work with and support female designers. I think Gabriela Hearst is absolutely amazing, very sustainable, really smart. As I’m putting together my press looks for Beauty and the Beast, I really have in mind, ‘How can I support up-and-coming female businesses?’”
“I’m thrilled to support and work with Dior, because there’s a female at the head of the house, which is amazing. There should be more of that. [LVMH] also signed the Women’s Empowerment Principle, so as a brand, not only are they talking about empowering their customers, but they also empower the women that make the clothes for them. It’s all very well in marketing for a company to say, ‘We want to empower women,’ but do they empower the women that do their work for them? I think that dual approach is really important.”
“For beauty products, I tend to have an 80/20 rule, where the majority of the things I buy I try to have chemical-free as much as possible, but there are some things which you just can’t find. Like a natural, waterproof mascara. But I’m trying! [laughs]”