Sunday, October 1, 2023

The Most Sustainable Met Gala Dress Was Worn By a 23-Year-Old Eco Activist


Activist, artist, and entrepreneur Maya Penn wore the most sustainable Met Gala dress made from upcycled materials designed by Coachtopia.

The 2023 Met Gala, which paid tribute to the late designer Karl Lagerfeld, saw some of its most sustainable efforts to date. The red carpet was lined with plastic bottle “hedges” and chandeliers that were recycled again after the event.

“Given today’s climate, we wanted to highlight the importance of giving our everyday items more than one life cycle,” event planner Raul Àvila told Vogue about the design. “We wanted to find a way to create a sustainable design that would implement the bottles into a breathtaking installation unlike anything we’ve done before.”

Maya Penn wore Coachtopia to the Met Gala
Maya Penn wore Coachtopia to the Met Gala | Courtesy

And with the event’s theme nod to Lagerfeld’s many iconic designs over the decades, celebs including Nicole Kidman, Naomi Campbell, and Gisele Bündchen revived vintage Chanel and other recycled gowns designed by the late designer.

There were new pieces from sustainable designer Stella McCartney who styled Aubrey Plaza and Madelyn Cline.

But the eco gown award of the night goes to Maya Penn, eco-activist and brand ambassador for Coachtopia, the Coach circular spinoff brand.

“Bringing circularity to the Met Gala,” Penn wrote on Instagram. She wore a custom Coachtopia gown that was created from a range of upcycled materials. The gown body came from leftover chiffon materials dyed using dandelion flowers. The ruffles were embroidered with scrap vintage lace elements, the sequins came from discarded bike tire tubes and aluminum soda cans, the trim was made from discarded VHS tapes found at rummage sales and secondhand shops, and the large flower applique was constructed from discarded plastic packaging waste along with scraps of antique lace.

Penn wore vintage jewelry and said “one of the coolest parts of the look” was the Wavy Dinky bag that the Coach team made from repurposed Met Museum trash (think ticket stubs and maps, street vendor napkins, plastic water bottles, and more).

Maya Penn's gown was made from upcycled materials.
Maya Penn’s gown was made from upcycled materials. | Courtesy

“I’ve been nerding out about this whole thing for weeks,” Penn, who also sits on the activist board of the Environmental Media Association, said in the Instagram post. “I want to show the world that circularity and sustainability must be normalized and take center stage in the fashion industry and in our culture, especially pop culture.”

Penn says you don’t have to sacrifice creativity and style in the process. “In fact, I believe that sustainable design processes enable even more creativity, ingenuity, and innovation.”

Penn is no stranger to fashion. She started her own fashion line, Maya’s Ideas, when she was just eight years old. “I’ve been an environmental and climate activist for pretty much as long as I can remember,” she told PopSugar, “but being an environmental activist, a multi-hyphenate artist, a multidisciplinary artist, and being able to really bring all of those kind of authentic elements of myself to the Met is definitely, something that I couldn’t have imagined it coming together in a better way.”

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