Wed, Dec 07, 2011 - Page 13 News List

Livia Firth turned the red carpet green

Standing in the spotlight alongside her movie star husband, Livia Firth rejects the big labels to wear only reclaimed fabrics and reworked classics. Now she’s turning her hand to design

By Viv Groskop  /  The Observer, LONDON

She is seen as the world’s most glamorous champion of “eco style” and has been dubbed “the queen of the green carpet.” Now Livia Firth is moving into design: the week before last she revealed she is working on a line for the online retailer Yoox’s eco brand Yooxygen, in partnership with Reclaim to Wear, which helps designers recycle textile surplus and waste.

Upcycling — or remaking cast-off items into something different and better — is something of a Firth specialty. She first drew attention to Reclaim to Wear when she wore one of its 1950s strapless cocktail dresses in silver satin to the Venice International Film Festival. For the Paris premiere of The King’s Speech, starring her husband Colin Firth, she famously wore an outfit made of one of his old suits.

When Livia wears something, she does it with flair: when her husband hosted the Met Ball in New York this year — one of US fashion’s biggest nights — she worked with Stella McCartney on a silk all-in-one jumpsuit covered in reclaimed vintage beads for the occasion, with a detachable skirt made of hemp.

The consort of an Oscar-winner has to work doubly hard to earn the adulation his or her partner commands; one of the first reviews of her eco store in west London wondered whether she was “just another bored housewife who wants to ‘dabble’ in fair-trade fashion, bankrolled by her super-famous husband.” But in a world where she could easily be made to sound like a character from Absolutely Fabulous, Firth, 42, has forged a reputation as a supporter of eco causes who demands to be taken seriously.

Red-carpet spouses are usually regarded with contempt by the fashion press and keenly scrutinized for supposedly idiotic “civilian” style mistakes. “Not enough celebrities take an interest,” says Safia Minney, founder of People Tree, one of the UK’s most successful designer eco labels. “But the clever ones do. Livia is intelligent and a truly gorgeous person inside and out. She’s beautiful, Italian, with great taste ... How could she go wrong?”

Four eco brands to watch

Annie Greenabelle

The home of “party dresses for green goddesses,” all made from organically grown and recycled fabrics. Check out the brand’s pixie-bow-embellished minidress — very Lily Allen.


A darling of the women’s magazines, Sarah Ratty’s label is known for its cut and quality.

People Tree

The original “fair-trade fashion pioneer” has collaborated with designers like Thakoon and Bora Aksu. Most recently known for three collections designed by Harry Potter actress Emma Watson.


This denim brand, founded in 2001, designed the first all-organic and fair-trade jeans.

Source: The Observer

Jane Olley, director of clothing label Annie Greenabelle, recently named one of Marie Claire’s top 10 eco brands, says Firth is “a fantastic ambassador for green style. She is fully informed and engaged with the cause she is promoting. She understands the preconceptions out there that ethical garments are perhaps made from less desirable fabrics and textures than conventional garments, and she understands how she is in a position to prove that women can still be stylish and socially responsible. She seems approachable and up for a discussion rather than someone who preaches. I respect her very much for the fact that she is helping lesser-known designers show their work. Although some celebrities dabble with ethical garments for certain events, they abandon the cause when life becomes busy. She stands out as she really follows her beliefs.”

Firth raised eyebrows when she announced two years ago that she would embrace the “Green Carpet Challenge” and wear only clothes designed by ethical companies. Her husband’s film A Single Man, for which he was later to receive an Oscar nomination, was about to open the Venice Film Festival. The King’s Speech was released the following year. Firth must have been aware of the timing of all this — known that she was about to become more scrutinized and that this represented an opportunity.

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