How does an aspiring designer score the opportunity to have his work constructed by Vivienne Westwood’s couture team, hand-embroidered by London’s legendary Royal School of Needlework and worn on the Oscar red carpet by Skyfall actress Naomie Harris? For Ghana-born fashion design student Michael Badger, that exact fantasy came in the form of winning this year’s Red Carpet Green Dress challenge, the third-annual charity initiative founded by actress Suzy Amis Cameron (James Cameron's other half) that aims to stimulate sustainable design and international green education.
Badger’s gown -- which just finished a display run at London’s Hampton Court Palace -- won this year’s annual contest, which was part of an initiative that raised $120,000 for MUSE School CA, a non-profit educational center started by Amis Cameron and her sister Rebecca in 2005. Along with Dame Westwood, Amis Cameron served as judged and chose Badger’s canary yellow creation from hundreds of entrants.
“We usually get down to ten top choices each and we all submit them,” Amis Cameron tells THR. “Whoever overlaps we have a vote on it. This year, out of all the ones we chose, we only had one that was dominating. We looked at the materials he wanted to use as well as how detailed he was about using hand-embroidery. It encompassed everything that Red Carpet Green Dress stands for.”
Badger’s gown -- inspired by flowing volcanic lava -- earned him a two-week trip to London where he worked directly with Westwood and her couture team on the construction of the dress, made of certified organic silk crepe de chine that was dyed using chamomile flowers, a process that earned Greenpeace’s seal of approval. Afterwards, the dress was sent to the Hampton Court Palace, where 22 members of the Royal School of Needlework logged more than 600 hours hand-festooning the frock with vintage glass beads and gold chocolate candy wrappers.
The handmade element versus fast machines was important to the sustainable story for this year’s selection. “It’s not really about a beautiful dress, but it’s about the fact that we all need to pay attention and be more conscious about the way clothes are being made and the clothes that we are wearing,” says Amis Cameron. “It doesn’t matter if we are 3 years old or a 103 years old. We all wear clothes every single day. Machines take energy, and the majority of our energy comes from burning oil or coal -- things that are really detrimental to our environment. So the less the less energy we use anywhere is always going to be a better choice.”
This isn’t the first time a gown from the Red Carpet Green Dress challenge has been sported on Oscar red carpet, as The Artist’s Missi Pyle wore the initiative’s winning design at the 2012 ceremony, while Amis Cameron sported the work of the contest's first victor in 2010 when her husband was nominated for Avatar.
“Things are moving quickly in terms of people becoming more conscious around the environment,” explains Amis Cameron. “My hope and dream is that in three to five years there will be more and more designers that are creating clothes that we can wear every single day that are in a price range that everyone can afford. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll do my own line.”