Cate Blanchett's Stylist Talks Progress in Sustainable Fashion

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After the actress opened the 2018 festival in her recycled Golden Globes gown, longtime stylist Elizabeth Stewart chats with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss the impact the fashion statement has had: "The industry really, really has to change."

When Cate Blanchett walked the steps of the Palais to open the Cannes Film Festival in 2018, the jury president did so in the Armani Privé gown she first wore to the Golden Globes in 2014. It was the ultimate fashion statement and this was her exclamation point: "Particularly in today’s climate, it seems willful and ridiculous that such garments are not cherished and re-worn for a lifetime." 

Blanchett hatched the plan with longtime stylist Elizabeth Stewart who tells The Hollywood Reporter that sustainability remains the "most absolute important thing" in the industry. So crucial that she’s adopted the style strategy in her own closet and hasn’t bought a new item in a year. 

What has the impact been over the past year? 

The impact has been great. I can't tell you how many people have said, 'I saw that. I want to do the same thing. What can I do?' Sustainability is the most absolute important thing in the fashion industry right now. The industry really, really has to change, and everybody has to take part in an ongoing and strong way.

What was the response you got from your stylist peers and fashion designers?

Incredible. About 10 other stylists reached out and said, 'I'm so glad you did that.' I literally just heard from an actress yesterday who said, 'I saw that. It had a real impact on me. I want to do the same.' So I definitely feel good about that. The message is out there and now everyone has to start walking the walk. 

Do you hope someone repeats your trend this year in Cannes?

I do hope so, but more importantly, it has to be an ongoing thing. All of my clients are on board. They're all rewearing. They all understand. They all really believe in it. Cherish your clothes; they're meant to be worn for a lifetime. You don't need to keep buying. They should be worn many many, many times, obviously including red carpet gowns. Reinventing them is the perfect way to do that obviously. Everybody is thinking really, really big and we just need all the companies to make sure all the fabrics are sustainable and all the ways they manufacture are. There's a big picture here and it's just a small part of it, but, you know, baby steps. 

What would you like to see change in the next year? 

I would like to see more and more companies really work on sustainable practices. What we're doing on the carpet helps the consumer understand the end results. There's all these horrible statistics like the average T-shirt is only worn seven times before it's discarded, which is really terrible. As consumers, we know what to do — not to consume so much and to be really responsible in our choices. But the more companies that are responsible in their practices, the easier those choices are going to be and the better it's going to be for everyone in the world. 

You told THR last year that "beautiful clothes should last a lifetime." How has it changed your personal style strategy?

I have not bought a new clothing item in about a year. I really take it to heart and shop my closet and re-wear what I have. I'm walking the walk. 

What would your tips be for someone else who wants to walk the walk? 

If you're buying fast fashion, know what you're doing. Think really hard, 'Do I really need this?' 'What's wrong with this thing I already have in my closet?' 'How do I freshen?' I completely understand, as a fashion person, that need for the new, but there are just other ways to achieve it other than constantly buying new things. You have to start at home. I'm given a lot of things. There's a lot of bags floating around. I never throw anything away. My mission is always to find a happy home for everything. One man's [trash] is another man's treasure. Every piece that comes through my studio, it's, 'What's the best place for this to be?' And sometimes, it's like old denim, my kid's high school used that to insulate their walls. Sometimes it's a really odd repurposing, but that'll do. My daughter's sorority dresses that she had to buy are donated to a program for foster kids going to prom. Just whatever it takes to have everything to be worth what it's worth and not just turn into junk and waste on the Earth.

A version of this story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's May 15 daily issue at the Cannes Film Festival.