Sophia Loren, Valentino receive standing ovation in Milan

Actress Sophia Loren poses for photographers upon arrival at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards in Milan, Italy, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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Sophia Loren and Valentino received a standing ovation from a packed house of fashion and Hollywood A-listers during the third edition of the Green Carpet Awards honoring progress toward sustainability.

Loren, stunning in a black gown and glistening diamond necklace, presented Valentino with an award for legacy achievement at Milan’s famed La Scala Opera house. Loren said the 87-year-old designer was “a friend, a master, a legend, a man who revolutionized the world of fashion through his elegance, passion and style.”

The award capped an evening to mark progress in creating more ecological and social consciousness in the fashion industry — recognized as the second-most polluting after oil.

Honorees included women in India trained to transform discarded saris into contemporary, hand-embroidered attire through the “I was a Sari” initiative and divers from the group Healthy Seas who recover lost fishing nets from the sea floor, some of which are upcycled into nylon for fashion houses like Prada.

Stella McCartney received the groundbreaker award for founding her brand 25 years ago on sustainable principles, when it was still considered a fringe notion. Wearing a black minidress made entirely of sustainable viscose that took three years to develop, McCartney told the fashion attendees that she was willing to share her knowledge with them to help accelerate the sustainability transition.

“Finally, I don’t feel like I’m the freak in the room anymore, of fashion,” McCartney said.

The Stella McCartney brand uses no animal byproducts of any kind, including leather, fur and animal glues, and is committed to creating textiles that preserve the environment. McCartney said that 17% of the Amazon rainforest over the past 50 years has been cut down for animal farming, and that 150 million trees are cut each year to make viscose and rayon.

Sustainability awards went to Max Mara for a program to upcycle camel fibers from its coats to make insulation called CameLux, and Zegna for creating a collection including 10% of looks made completely out of upcycled materials under a program promoted by the #usetheexisting hashtag. Dutch model Doutzen Kroes, wearing a fully recycled look by Max Mara, was honored for using her social media platform to raise money to help protect elephants from being killed for their ivory through the Knot on My Planet initiative.

Livia Firth, the founder of the Eco-Age consultancy that founded the awards with the Italian Fashion Chamber, credited the protest movement launched by Greta Thunberg with sharpening the commitment to sustainability in the past year. In Italy, fashion chamber members representing 60% of all Italian luxury revenues are working together to establish guidelines that they aim to make European standards on such things as the use of chemicals and fair wages.

“We cannot solve this crisis, without treating it like a crisis,” said Carlo Capasa, fashion chamber president. “We want to make sustainability measurable, traceable and transparent.”q