By Esme Bourne
The evolution of eco princess Emma Watson is one to behold. She’s gone from that little girl on our screens bossing Harry and Ron around to a seriously empowered woman, giving inspiring speeches about female equality at the UN.
With her debut as Belle in the highly anticipated Disney adaption of Beauty and The Beast released this year, we look at her transition from a bushy haired wizard to a serious power player in arenas normally dominated by men.
From acting to activism
After eight years as her most famous role as Hermione in the loved franchise of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, Watson decided to take a break from acting and instead focus on her intellect. Watson enrolled in Brown University in Rhode Island to study English. As she soon discovered her parallel with Hermione, as the studious and earnest individual, Watson invested her time and energy into activism.
Perhaps the beginning of her journey was when Watson collaborated with Alberta Ferretti in 2011 to create an environmentally friendly capsule collection called ‘Pure Threads.’ Of that collection, she said: “I’m pleased that a luxury brand such as Alberta Ferretti has decided to create ecological clothes. I believe this is a big step forward for all the international fashion industry but also an important step for increased sensitivity to the problem of ecology”. The capsule collection was made from organic fabrics such as organic cotton, muslin and hemp. Perhaps inspired by this, Watson later collaborated with environmentally friendly brand People Tree on a series of more casual sustainable clothing.
Watson’s passion for conscious fashion is also seen in her own wardrobe. At the 2016 Met Gala, Watson was the belle of the ball when she wore a custom made eco-friendly dress designed by Calvin Klein and Eco Age. Watson set a trend and broke boundaries by being one of the first Hollywood starlets to wear a gown created from recycled water bottles and organic silk on the red carpet. “I made a choice that I would only wear sustainable fashion on the red carpet,” she told CNN. And she has done ever since.
She was quite specific about wanting to dress in something made from recycled plastic. “Plastic is one of the biggest pollutants on the planet,” she said. “Being able to repurpose this waste and incorporate it into my gown for the Met Gala proves the power that creativity, technology and fashion can have by working together.”
The actress has created a separate Instagram specifically for her Beauty and The Beast press tour where she promotes looks from her ethical wardrobe. She may wear mainstream designers like Oscar de la Renta or Burberry, but she tries to ensure that these items are eco-friendly, like her Burberry pumps made from organic materials. She even has a custom made Louis Vuitton dress made of recycled polyester whose sourcing, processing and creation are all fully traceable back to Italy, where the dress was made in a neutral carbon mill. Of course, she also supports smaller independent brands such as BodyWear, whose garments are created from organic bamboo in zero waste factories, and she’s created campaigns like #30wears which strives to extend the life of garments to reduce waste.
A fabulous feminist
Watson cares for people as much as she does for the planet. A conscious fashion industry is vital for Watson, who argues that it “is also absolutely a feminist issue” as (mainly female) factory workers today are enslaved in exploitation, low wages and poor health and safety. Just think back to the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster to understand why this issue should constantly be at the forefront of debates.
In 2014, Watson’s speech for her new campaign HeForShe, a campaign invested in gender equality, moved a nation to tears and received over one billion social media impressions. She was then named Goodwill Ambassador for the UN, and the announcement of this crashed the UN’s website! Clearly, Watson’s huge fan base has allowed her voice to resonate with thousands of young people where she can spread her message loud and clear. The HeForShe campaign has had a major and influential impact across the globe “making men champions of women’s issues that are everyone’s issues,” according to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.
Sticks and stones…
Watson argues that in order to achieve the ideal equal society, “the solution is for men to get involved.” She also claims that Hollywood is intrinsically sexist, paying men more and positioning them in places of power over women more often. However on the road to fixing Hollywood’s gender problem, she has had some backlash. She was recently called a ‘Feminazi’, ‘a first world feminist’ and other insults, but has fought back, claiming: “There is a willingness now to be like, ‘fine, call me a ‘diva’, call me a ‘Feminazi,’ call me ‘difficult,’ call me a ‘first world feminist,’ call me whatever you want – it’s not going to stop me from doing the right thing,” she told People Magazine.
The charm of Emma Watson is that we have watched her grow up on screen and have also learnt alongside her through her journey of self-discovery. She has a touch of reality that many Hollywood stars lack, and she skillfully uses her own brand to promote causes she believes in: namely gender equality and ethical fashion. When she attended the 2016 White House Correspondents Association Dinner it cemented her place alongside seriously power players in Washington. Long may she rule!
Images: main & 1: Net A Porter 2. Alberta Ferretti collaboration 3. Wikicommons