Sunday, March 3, 2024

Tom Ford Accepts Visionary Honor, Recognizes Plastic Innovation Prize Winners

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During the Green Carpet Fashion Awards in Los Angeles, designer Tom Ford accepted the Visionary Honor while also announcing the three recipients of the Plastic Innovation Prize.

Fashion icon and founder of his eponymous label Tom Ford announced the winners of the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize during his acceptance speech for The GCFA Visionary Honor at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards earlier this week at The Nueue House in Hollywood. The GCFA was founded by Livia Firth. This year’s event marked its first time in Los Angeles. The night was co-chaired by actors Cate Blanchett, Viola Davis, Simu Liu, Simone Ashley, Tom Ford, and model Quannah Chasinghorse. 

“I started this prize three years ago with a harrowing fear that the world our children would inherit would no longer be a livable one,” Ford said in his speech. “I wanted to be a part of the solution, not be an arbiter of the problem. If we did nothing about the waste and pollution flooding our oceans the disruption to our planet would be irreconcilable.

“Watching the brilliant minds within this competition has given me extraordinary hope in making the impossible possible. Our three winners have created truly viable alternatives — alternatives that when scaled across markets and industries will drastically change the course of the health of our planet.

“Today, as we announce the winners of the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize, I am honored, hopeful and thankful. Honored to have such great minds and partners join me to pioneer change. Hopeful for a better tomorrow, and thankful for all that has already been achieved.” 

The Plastic Innovation Prize was launched in collaboration with Lonely Whale, a nonprofit working to scale and source marine-safe and biologically degradable alternatives to traditional thin-film plastic. The $1.2 million prize purse is a combination of cash prizes and direct investments presented by Tom Ford Beauty, The Estée Lauder Companies, and Trousdale Ventures. Thin-film plastic makes up 46 percent of all plastic waste polluting the oceans each year.

“The truth is like all of you in this room, I cannot stand by while the planet is slowly coated in a thin oily film of plastic to be inherited by our children and in fact generations to come,” Ford said.

The GCFA Visionary Award was presented to Ford by award-winning actor and Prize Judge Trudie Styler in recognition of Ford’s work to replace the 180 billion traditional thin-film plastic polybags used annually in the fashion industry.

The three prize winners announced were Sway, Zerocircle, and Notpla. Sway is an American company that offers seaweed-based home-compostable replacements for regenerative thin-film plastic packaging at scale. Zerocircle is an India-based company that produces wildlife and ocean-safe packaging materials made from locally cultivated seaweed that dissolve in the ocean after use. Notpla, a London-based start-up, is on a mission to make plastic waste disappear by pioneering natural-membrane packaging that uses seaweed as an alternative to single-use plastic.

zerocircle
Zerocircle is using algae to replace plastic. Courtesy

“It was an honor to highlight the alternative materials created by the Prize winners to reduce the environmental impact of traditional thin-film plastic at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards,” Firth said in a statement. “It has been inspiring to work with Mr. Ford, Lonely Whale and my fellow judges to identify a solution for traditional thin-film plastic that has the potential for wide-scale adoption. I look forward to seeing the fashion industry rise up to this challenge and embrace these biologically based and degradable alternative materials.”

Sway, Zerocircle, and Notpla were selected from eight finalists; the selections were made following a nine-month testing phase sponsored by Nike and led by the New Materials Institute at the University of Georgia and the Seattle Aquarium. The testing ensured the materials are biologically degradable, minimize negative social and environmental impacts, meet industry performance standards, and are also cost-competitive, scalable, and market-ready.

“The Winners of the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize continue to inspire me with their commitment to innovate in order to scale marine-safe alternatives, helping to mitigate the 11 million metric tons of new plastic made from fossil fuels that enters the ocean each year,” said Lucy Sumner, Co-founder of Lonely Whale. “The investment and ongoing partnership from Tom Ford Beauty, The Estée Lauder Companies, and Trousdale Ventures underscores the vital need for collaboration to achieve systems change.”

According to the United Nations, approximately eight million metric tons of plastic waste enter the oceans each year. The World Economic Forum warns that if the current rate of plastic pollution continues, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

The fashion industry is one of the largest contributors to plastic pollution, in addition to the approximately 180 billion traditional thin-film plastic polybags annually, the industry is still heavily reliant on plastic-based materials such as polyester. These items do not break down in the environment and can poison wildlife, disrupt ecosystems, and have been linked to human health issues including hormone and metabolic disruptions.

It is not fashionable if it creates exclusion, poverty, exploitative labor, displacement, pollution or it increases carbon emissions.

-Vanessa Nakate

The Green Carpet Fashion Awards spotlighted women, environmental activists, and fashion industry changemakers.

“We’re living in a time of great challenges,” Firth said in her opening remarks, delivered alongside Ugandan environmental activist Vanessa Nakate and actor Taylor Zakhar Perez. “The fashion and entertainment industries are contributing to the climate crisis. But together, we have the power to turn this around. It is not fashionable if it creates exclusion, poverty, exploitative labor, displacement, pollution or it increases carbon emissions,” Nakate said. “Tonight, you will meet phenomenal catalysts of change representing the architects of the global, social and environmental justice movement.”

The vegan event features presenters including Leonardo DiCaprio, Annie Lennox, Jodie Turner-Smith, and Jerry Hall and her daughter Georgia May Jagger. The night’s honorees included Alicia Silverstone, Chloé creative director Gabriela Hearst, Unless co-founders Eric Liedtke and Tara Moss, Gucci, Andreas Kronthaler, British Vogue‘s Edward Enninful, and the late designer, Vivienne Westwood.

DiCaprio presented the Healer award to Sônia Guajajara, Brazil’s Minister for Indigenous People, calling the stewards of the Amazon “without question” its Indigenous defenders. “Not only is [the Amazon] one of the most important places for wildlife, it is also key to sustaining life, far beyond its borders, helping to drive, both global water cycles and weather patterns that affect rainfall — even here in California.”

Speaking Portuguese through an interpreter, Guajajara said that all of the defenders of the forest, animals, life and the planet earth, are now struggling to protect the Amazon and other forests around the world. “The struggle has not been easy,” she said. “Many indigenous leaders and environmentalists are losing their lives daily. Indigenous peoples represent only five percent of the world’s population, but together, we protect 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity.”

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