Re-wearing or repeating red carpet outfits is something a number of celebrities have been warming up to in the past few years. The topic was brought to the attention of social media users once again last week, when Bengaluru’s own Ricky Kej posted a picture of himself wearing the same outfit to both the 2022 Grammy Awards and the ongoing Cannes Film Festival. Ricky, an environmentalist who won the award for United Nations’ Global Humanitarian Artiste in addition to being a multiple Grammy-winner, cleverly used the international platform to bring attention to a cause close to his heart. Along with a picture of himself in a deep blue sherwani at both events, he posted the caption: “Fast fashion isn’t always fashionable. Especially when we consider its impact on our planet (The fashion industry is one of the most polluting on the planet). The use of toxic textile dyes, cheap materials and massive use of water translates to environmental pollution. For decades, repeating an outfit for galas and events would be considered a fashion blunder — encouraging people to switch up outfits for every event, making clothes ‘Single Use.’ It’s time to change that narrative. It’s time we consider our planet in this equation. Fashion Can Be Trendy Twice.” (sic)
It may not be an entirely novel concept. Princess Diana, one of the most influential fashion icons of the 20th century and whose style continues to be relevant well into the 21st, had done it as far back as the ’80s. Who can forget the Moschino houndstooth jacket — paired with a striped scarf in 1990 and with a solid black fabric two years later?
In recent times, names like Kate Blanchett, Tiffany Haddish, Jane Fonda, Jennifer Lopez and Diana’s own daughters-in-law — Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle — have made a case for giving statement designer garments more than one outing. However, in a world where time is a rare commodity and where information is coming at you from all directions, one is in constant need of reminders. That is why Ricky’s message, on the sidelines of an event watched by billions across the globe, is significant.
Sending a message
The Bengaluru-based musician is an influential name and his choices have an impact on a generation who let social media dictate their values. We asked a few designers to give us their thoughts on the topic. City-based couturier, Sounak Sen Bharat, of House of Three shares that in the face of rapidly depleting natural resources, the musician is setting a good example at a crucial time. “In a world of information overload and photo-op worthy, instantly gratifying fast fashion, where everything is ‘use and throw,’ Ricky, who is a strong voice in amplifying environmental issues and sustainability, is setting the right examples. We live in the real world, where natural resources are depleting. The earth isn’t an infinite reserve. Mindless consumption and hoarding is criminal pressure on Mother Earth. He is influencing people to think about things that matter,” he says.
Designer Ruchika Sachdeva, founder of Bodice, which won the Woolmark Prize in 2018, believes that carefully crafted garments deserve to be taken for a spin more often. “It’s great to see celebs repeating outfits on the red carpet. It is quite unusual for people to re-wear event outfits and normalising it is a step in the right direction. Precious garments definitely need to see more light,” she tells us.
While Ruchika stresses on the importance of craft, David Abraham, one half of designer duo Abraham & Thakore, brings the focus back to their impact on the environment. “In the context of all the discussions about sustainability, reducing waste and unnecessary extravagance, it’s a very important message. This business of throwaway clothes is brought in by fast fashion retailers. It goes against the business principles of A&T,” he explains.
The celebs who are not afraid to step out in previously heavily photographed outfits are known to switch things up a little bit and get creative when it comes to accessorising. Some do their hair differently, some go with completely new jewellery, others alter their clothes to make an off-shoulder style a strapless number, while others pair a shirt or blouse they’ve worn before with a new pair of trousers or a skirt. For instance, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, whose every outfit is inspected and analysed down to the last detail by the media, first wore a pleated, soft lilac Alexander McQueen gown to BAFTA event in 2011. While she paired it with a silver belt and matching bracelet over a decade ago, the second time, she wore it to the 2021 The Earthshot Prize awards ceremony with a golden belt and left her wrists bare.
Talking about how one can get multiple wears out of a single outfit while keeping it interesting and current, Ruchika says, “Accessorising with meaningful, contemporary pieces immediately updates a slightly vintage outfit. Style is quite subjective and it’s about finding that one piece that you can build your entire look upon.”
David echoes Ruchika’s thoughts but also points out that building a wardrobe that hinges on timeless pieces is half the battle won. “Something that’s been worn over and over again can be styled differently with intelligence. I think most of our clients re-wear our clothes because that’s the premise of our label — the aesthetic transcends trends. I hope that everyone does the same,” he says.
Another name that comes to mind when one thinks of timeless and classic garments is Urvashi Kaur. The designer is known for her flowing silhouettes, light fabrics and muted colour story. She says, “Celebrities like Tillotama Shome, Sonam Kapoor and Tisca Chopra have re-worn my clothes multiple times. My clothes are not specifically meant for the red carpet but they are very versatile and wouldn’t be out of place anywhere. I think any celeb who endorses re-wearing, especially at important red carpet events, is really walking the talk.”
Timeless by design
Sounak and his team have a similar approach. “Our design philosophy dictates that we make pieces that can easily fit into your current wardrobe. So they are pieces that can be worn multiple times. We also make most of our pieces using ancient handloom techniques. Those techniques are the answers to resolve carbon footprint issues. If our handlooms have been relevant for hundreds of years, a House Of Three piece can surely last your lifetime and be gifted to the next generation as an heirloom. That’s possible only if the mindset changes from hoarding and mindless fashion, to a more progressive and humble approach to value and cherish a well-crafted designer piece,” says Sounak, in conclusion.