Costume Designer Arianne Phillips, Elizabeth Banks Talk Red Carpet Advocacy

Amy Sussman/Getty Images for The Business Of Fashion
Melissa Magsaysay (second from far right) moderates a discussion with Arianne Phillips, Elizabeth Banks, and Carineh Martin.

At the second annual Business of Fashion West summit, Phillips and Carineh Martin (co-founders of philanthropic initiative RAD, short for Red Carpet Advocacy) discussed the social power of the red carpet with Banks.

At the second annual Business of Fashion West summit at Westfield Century City on Friday, Oscar-nominated costume designer Arianne Phillips and Carineh Martin (co-founders of RAD, short for "Red Carpet Advocacy") joined actress Elizabeth Banks on a panel on "The Social Power of the Red Carpet."

Phillips' and Martin's efforts to change the conversation on the red carpet from "Who are you wearing?" to "Why are you wearing?" launched at the 2019 Golden Globes in January. The Handmaid’s Tale star Elisabeth Moss teamed up with stylist Karla Welch and Christian Dior, Tamara Mellon, Neil Lane and Roger Vivier on a head-to-toe look that benefited the American Civil Liberties Union.

“This is a really important opportunity to say who you are and what you believe in,” said Martin. “Everyone's talking about corporate social responsibility. What does that mean? This is an opportunity to exhibit that in a really shiny, sexy way with talent. When RAD calls you and says, ‘So-and-so's wearing your dress. Do you want to stand with them and support [a cause] that they're going to be speaking about?' How will you answer?”

RAD worked with Welch again at the 2019 Grammys, when singer Camila Cabello wore an Armani Prive look that supported Save The Children. Other brands that have stepped up include Christian Siriano, Stephen Webster, and Roger Vivier who partnered with Patricia Arquette as she supported Give Love while accepting the best actress in a television movie or miniseries award at the 2019 SAG Awards.

“Gone are the days of, ‘Oh, I like to do my philanthropy quietly,’” said Phillips. “You know, our culture has changed so dramatically and is changing. We have climate change and sustainability. There's an urgency to come together as a community.”

Banks arrived in an all-white, eco-friendly dress from ThredUp in support of the not-for-profit organization Dress for Success. “I was approached by these guys who are long-time friends of mine...They came to me right around the same time that Time's Up launched," she said. "They were a part of advocacy at the Golden Globes where every actress wore black for solidarity and it was just this incredible moment to be a part of it, to watch and to realize the power of the red carpet, the power of those moments, to engage people in conversation. If that's all it is, if nobody actually donates to Dress for Success, I'll be very disappointed. However, you are going to know the name [Dress for Success] and that helps me feel like this was worth it today.”

The philanthropic duo has also been making waves beyond the red carpet.

“I truly wanted to figure out a way I could give back and do good without having to give up my day job, it was a selfish need for me to try and figure that out,” said Phillips. "We also have been working with brands and creating content that lives on their social media."

She additionally referenced a screening of Barry Jenkins' If Beale Street Could Talk, where Tracee Ellis Ross wore Gucci to support Essie Justice Group and the #MeToo movement.  

"The red carpet is definitely the place that inspired this, but our work will go beyond that. For me, it's really empowering for my colleagues and for my friends to be able to think about our world and how we can use what we do for good. So often it can be paralyzing to know how to give back and how to do better. This is really just coming from a place of wanting to be organic and use our platforms in this industry to raise awareness.”