In an attempt to make the award event carbon neutral, Bafta urged its guests to rent or rewear gowns for the night. But with a few notable exceptions, most stars stuck to their usual custom couture, writes Meadhbh McGrath
Ahead of Sunday's ceremony, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts were scrambling to change the rather unflattering #BaftasSoWhite narrative surrounding the event.
To deflect attention from their all-white acting nominees, the organisers valiantly attempted to shift to #BaftasSoGreen by claiming the event was going "carbon neutral". In addition to issuing guidelines on greener travel arrangements, ditching the luxury gift bags and serving a plant-based menu, BAFTA introduced an eco-friendly dress code, encouraging guests to rewear something they already own, hire an ensemble or choose a designer committed to sustainability. Attendees were provided with a guide by the London College of Fashion's Centre for Sustainability, offering suggestions for rental services, vintage shops and designers with eco credentials including Stella McCartney, Rejina Pyo and Reformation.
But a quick glance at the wardrobe credits from Sunday's red carpet shows BAFTA needn't have bothered - just about everyone ignored the memo. There was Best Actress winner Renee Zellweger in custom Prada, Scarlett Johansson in custom Atelier Versace and Charlize Theron in custom Dior. Margot Robbie opted for Chanel couture, while Rooney Mara wore Givenchy couture fresh off the catwalk, which might have been a little awkward for her date, fiancé Joaquin Phoenix. The favourite for the Best Actor Oscar, Phoenix has pledged to wear the same custom Stella McCartney tuxedo throughout awards season - a gesture which would have likely gone unnoticed had the designer not announced it on Twitter, to much online mockery. Yet Phoenix has been outspoken about the climate crisis and celebrity hypocrisy in his speeches, calling out his peers for taking "private jets to Palm Springs" at the Golden Globes and lobbying the event to go vegan.
Rewearing (or what the rest of us would call "wearing") items already in our wardrobes is the most sustainable approach to fashion, something Kate Middleton championed in a gold embroidered Alexander McQueen gown last seen on a royal tour of Malaysia in 2012. Of course, Middleton is in a notably different position from the celebrity attendees in that members of the royal family buy and own their own clothes, while actresses rarely get to keep their frocks. Instead, they typically borrow a dress from a brand - often taking home a lucrative fee just to be seen wearing it - and afterwards, hand it back to the designer for their archives.
One of the few guests who abided by the dress code was Saoirse Ronan, whose Gucci gown was created using discarded satin fabric. "We wanted to create a gown that didn't waste any resources or people's time," her stylist, Elizabeth Saltzman, told British Vogue.
The Irish turned the red carpet green in more ways than one - Wexford-born Richard Malone designed an asymmetric dress for TV presenter Maya Jama using recycled wool and regenerative ocean waste, while Laura Whitmore stunned at the after-party in an emerald silk number by Reformation, one of BAFTA's recommended sustainable labels.
Elsewhere, Daisy Ridley's Oscar de la Renta gown was made from sustainably-sourced chiffon, while Olivia Colman paired her Alexander McQueen dress with lab-grown diamonds from Atelier Swarovski.
For the majority of the guests, the marathon of awards season demands months of advance planning, so it's possible that the BAFTA advice arrived too late to make changes beyond a pair of earrings. But the mass flouting of the dress code calls attention to how outmoded the current system has become, highlighting the shocking amount of clothes stars cycle through each awards season, where gowns are often custom designed for one event and never seen again. Going forward, let's hope we'll start to see a little more substance with all that style.