There is not much that Emma Watson will let stand in the way of her goals: not the way Hollywood pigeonholes its actors; not the staring eyes of strangers everywhere she goes; and certainly not the pitfalls that so often face child stars making the transition into adult life.
When we meet in a historic New York hotel restaurant for breakfast, Watson is so put-together, so utterly charming, that I can’t help but wonder how someone who has been in the public eye for more than half her life is so well-grounded. But as we talk, it becomes clear: Watson, 23, is professionalism personified. It is perhaps not surprising; she was just 11 years old when she won the role of Hermione Granger in theHarry Potter movie. During the 10 years she was part of the multi-billion dollar franchise, she quietly matured into one of the smartest young actresses of her generation. She makes flawless red-carpet appearances, avoids club-hopping, and treats every aspect of her job like a pro – including showing up or interviews, like this one, early.
“I don’t do anything by halves,” she says, looking pared back and gamine in a gray and black blouse, high-waisted shorts and not a scrap of makeup. “I have to go all in. I just want things to be perfect. If I’m going to put my name on it, I want it to be something I love.”
Watson is talking about fair trade, a subject she studied while at Brown University, Rhode Island (where she enrolled in 2009), and the cause she is pouring her heart into, the Green Carpet Challenge (GCC). Eco campaigner Livia Firth began the GCC in 2009 to catapult ethical fashion into the global spotlight.
For Firth’s latest project, she asked five British-based designers to each create two event pieces exclusively for NET-A-PORTER. But who to showcase them? The two women had met previously at a party, so when Firth asked Watson to join the project, she jumped aboard. “I was like, ‘No one’s doing anything like this!’ It’s so exciting.”
Having grown up on the red carpet, Watson knows first-hand that sustainable style and glamorous gowns have never been totally simpatico. “I’ve always had this huge problem,” she says. “I would love to wear garments that are ethically sourced, but there aren’t enough options for me to be able to do that realistically.” So when she met Firth, “it just seemed like [the project] was something I had to do, something I’d been waiting for.” Her eyes light up: “Livia’s created a lobbying body to put pressure on governments and corporations to encourage them to have [ethical responsibility] as their baseline. It’s quite awesome.”
The GCC isn’t Watson’s only fashion-related passion project. In 2010, she designed the first of three collections for Fairtrade brand People Tree. In 2011, she used her expertise to create a sustainably produced capsule collection with Alberta Ferretti, Pure Threads. The projects were well received: “Though they were tiny collections, they seemed to raise awareness and a groundswell of interest,” Watson says.
See more from NET-A-PORTER’s new issue here.