By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
British actress Emma Watson, best known for playing Harry Potter’s best friend Hermione, has been spreading her magic in the eco-fashion world for many years. Her relentless devotion to the environment has led to her collaborating with sustainable brand People Tree, participating in the Green Carpet Challenge, and much, much more.
Recognising Watson’s budding style, the founders of People Tree reached out to the young actress to involve her in the designing of a new collection for the brand. It was so successful, they asked her to do a second one, but this time, Emma flew to Bangladesh to see exactly how the clothing was being made. She met with the garment workers who were making the pieces she designed, and was utterly overwhelmed by seeing firsthand what a difference Fair Trade practices can make:
“It was an incredible and life-changing experience – I really wish everyone had the chance to see the difference Fair Trade makes with their own eyes! Fair Trade fashion comes from the villages – and provides a real alternative to working in a garment factory and the harsh environment of living in a slum. Fair Trade fashion is often completely handmade – and made of 100% natural and organic cotton – and it’s a small miracle that we as consumers can participate in a process that is keeping skills and communities alive and helping them to prosper,” she said in a statement to the press.
Emma donated all royalties from her collection to the People Tree Foundation, which has the objective of bringing benefits of Fair Trade to farmers and artisans through scaling up training, technical support and environmental initiatives, by raising awareness and campaigning for Fair Trade and sustainable fashion.
In 2011, Watson cultivated her newfound expertise into a collection with (not usually eco-friendly) Italian designer Alberta Ferretti. The capsule line, inspired by Jane Birkin, had a distinctive 70s flair and was christened Pure Threads. This five-piece collection, composed of two dresses, a shirt, a long skirt, and a denim short, was entirely made in Italy from Global Organic Textile Standard Certified organic cotton. While Ferretti didn’t continue to make the rest of her line eco-friendly, Emma expressed her wish to continue helping designers go green: “I’m happy to encourage anyone interested in making conscientious clothing from raw, sustainable materials, so much so that I’ll work for free!’ she said.
Indeed, the young actress is now aiming chemical cosmetic giant Lancôme to go green too. Given that she is the face for their fragrance, Trésor Midnight Rose, she just may have some influence in making this notoriously ‘un-eco’ brand a bit more sustainable by bringing out what she suggests would be a big hit: an all natural makeup line.
She is still waiting for a response from the French brand, but of course Emma simply can’t stand still, so she focused her energies on Camfed, a movement that has the goal of educating girls in rural Africa and creating leadership opportunities for them when they complete school. Watson become Camfed International’s ambassador and with her ‘Just One Thing’ campaign she drew attention to sending girls back to school in the autumn of 2012 and providing them with books, uniforms and other school essentials.
Since 1993, nearly two million children in some of the poorest regions of Ghana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia have benefited from Camfed’s education programmes. Watson has always claimed to be a bookworm and loves to study, hence she holds very much at heart her role as Camfed’s ambassador: “Education is so important, not just for the individual but for society as a whole, and in the poorest areas it is so often girls who miss out. I am delighted to support Camfed and the amazing work they do.”
The 23-year old recently got even busier through Livia Firth’s Green Carpet Challenge in collaboration with ‘The Edit’ magazine. Emma modelled eco-friendly gowns from five different designers, including Erdem, Christopher Bailey, Christopher Kane, Roland Mouret and Victoria Beckham, for a shoot by Net-A-Porter’s Bjorn Iooss.
Watson expressed her admiration for Ms. Firth: “Livia’s created a lobbying body to put pressure on governments and corporations to encourage them to have ethical responsibility as their baseline. It’s quite awesome.”
She may make it look easy, but Emma admits it’s not always easy being ‘green.’ “I’ve always had this huge problem, she admits. “I would love to wear garments that are ethically sourced, but there aren’t enough options for me to be able to do that realistically. The Green Carpet Challenge seemed like something I had been waiting for. Maybe there would be fewer problems if we were really conscious of where and how things were made. I can’t wrap my head around why ethical clothing is a specialty and not a base standard. Why is it special to have something you know wasn’t made under terrible conditions by a 12-year-old girl for 20 pence an hour?”
With Emma’s efforts and intellect pushing for eco-fashion, surely the base standard will rise soon.