Ahead of the Oscars® on Sunday 25 April, 2021 – which for the first time in history will be hosted across multiple sites in the US and Europe – we caught up with Samata Pattinson, CEO of Red Carpet Green Dress, to learn more about the “women-led global change-making organisation bringing sustainability to the forefront of conversation and action within the global fashion and apparel industry”.
Established in 2009, by Suzy Amis Cameron, Samata’s first interaction with Red Carpet Green Dress was as a competition entrant – she joined Red Carpet Green Dress initially as the campaign’s contest winner in 2011 before progressing to Campaign Director and now serves as CEO.
Here, Samata shares insights into a career spanning fashion and media, the importance of celebrating the things that we have already achieved as women, and the challenges presented in the pursuit of a more sustainable world.
How do you start your days?
At different times, depending on what time zone I’m working on. Sometimes I might have a call at 7AM, other times I have calls starting at 11AM. Depending on when I start my day, if it’s really early, I’ll sit in quiet place in the house so I don’t wake anyone up. I’ll have a cup of tea, light a candle, get really comfortable with blankets and throws that I like to put over my legs. Even if it’s hot, I like covering my legs with these! I’m not a huge breakfast person so I normally have something small. I love hot cross buns right now! After eating, I open up my diary and then look at my schedule, get my head around it and dive in. Around this, it could be that I take my son to nursery or other mother duties, so every day is different.
What’s your go-to uniform?
I really don’t believe in uniforms. I think that my personality and taste evolves and is reflected in what I wear. The only thing that might be consistent is that I love head wraps and comfortable pieces that look good. I love a soft-knit jumper or a lovely silk-feel top. I love pieces that feel good against the skin. Apart from this, aesthetically, it can completely change.
Describe your workspace/ workplace…
I would say that I’m somebody who likes multiple screens. I have my laptop and I normally have a monitor attached to that. It means that the things I am working on are on my laptop while my reference documents are on my monitor. It makes it much easier to just look up instead of crossing between windows. I also have a paper diary on the right of me with an ink fountain pen. I don’t tend to have pictures on my desk because I’m always working around different places. Instead, I have a nice desktop photo. I currently have a landscape picture but sometimes I personalise it with a family picture too.
Identify something in your workspace that’s special to you (and why)
My diary. My mother and father-in-law gave me a beautiful Aspinal diary for Christmas. It’s a page view one and has my initials engraved on it. You can not only add birthdays to it, but it also tells you the capitals around the world, conversion metrics, etc. It’s a very meaningful gift to me, because of who it came from and also because they know how much I love what I do.
What are your workplace essentials?
A cup of tea and fizzy water.
What’s your go-to lunch order?
Right now, I love plantain, gyoza, sweetcorn fritters, and spring rolls. I’m not a sandwich person.
What time of day are you at your most creative?
Probably 1AM. I’m one hundred percent an evening cat. I usually hit my peak from 6 or 7PM onwards.
What is the most rewarding part of the job?
The people I work with! We work with so many nice people, including amazing fashion brands, creative talent, Suzy Amis Cameron and the Cameron’s, people that care about the planet and sustainability, my social media team, I have the nicest PR team – I feel so lucky to be surrounded by these people in my work life.
And the most challenging?
Sustainability, having that conversation, and the things we’re trying to do are hard. It’s difficult to get brands to see that it’s worth investing and partnering on sustainable initiatives sometimes. It’s hard to get around the red tape […] but the end result is worth it.
Work takes you most frequently to…
My uncomfortable zone. I say that because I’m often the only woman in the space, and the only black woman in the space. The discomfort of being ‘the only’ can be challenging. I’m constantly being taken out of my comfort zone, and I love it.
What did you study in school/ university?
I started studying radiography and dropped out after six months because I couldn’t hack it in the wards. I always thought I wanted to help people and be a part of that, but it wasn’t for me. I then studied economics, finance and management.
Where are you from originally?
I’m a British-born Ghanaian. I was born in Cambridge, but my parents were born in Ghana.
What was your first job?
Housekeeping! This was actually a choice job. I love to tidy and clean spaces and when I get into my zone, I like to be alone. It was the perfect job for me.
What sparked your interest in fashion and media?
Fashion and media, to me, are ways that we can express our creativity and personality uniquely. I have always been interested in how people tell stories about themselves through fashion and media.
How did you initially become involved in Red Carpet Green Dress?
I entered the contest without knowing what sustainability was. I just wanted to design a dress for the red carpet. Before I knew it, I had won and was being brought over to LA where I started to learn about sustainability. I haven’t looked back since. It was accidental but it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Tell us about THE TRIBE…
THE TRIBE is an empowerment collective. It started because I felt that women were always being asked the question “What’s next?”. I was trying to create spaces where we could celebrate women for who they are. Our hashtag #IAmEnough encourages women to celebrate the things they have already done and not always think about the things they have got to do tomorrow. I wrote an empowerment journal for it. It’s a daily journal with inspirational stories, motivational lists, and also has spaces where you can write things that you are celebrating about yourself.
Do you have a mentor or inspirational figure that has guided or influenced you?
I would say my mum because she is just completely amazing. What she did with my sisters and I. How she would always strive for us to be well educated. The way she would tell us that whatever you’re doing, do it to the best of your ability. She would always say that “If your job is to tidy up the room, be the CEO (or whatever) – do it to the best of your ability”. It wasn’t about being perfect, but it was about being proud of what you did and taking pride in the things that you did. I love that she is like that.
What were some hurdles you had to overcome in the early days of working in fashion and publishing/media?
I used to have a label. My early hurdles were around financing and understanding how to get financial support for the brand, and I actually stopped doing it. I think that lack of business education for fashion designers and the lack of access to opportunities to get financing is really challenging. Sometimes it feels like it keeps going to the same group of people. Those were some of the early challenges for me, but I’m good at meeting new people so I wasn’t somebody that struggled to form new relationships.
What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
To trust your instincts. I am relentless and will go until the eleventh hour to get something done. So, it’s not about how things get hard quick. Trusting your instincts – when something doesn’t feel right, a project doesn’t feel right, or the people don’t feel right, don’t do it. The things I have had to go ahead with where I thought “I don’t know about this” and hesitated about, have always been the hardest and most stressful things to do.
The best advice you’ve ever received
Stay on the saddle. I’d take that on board if you have something in your heart that you want to do and you know that this is something that is meant to be and you can’t stop thinking about. It’s your passion, so stay on the saddle. You might not get there the way you want to get there, but you’ll get there in a different way and you will learn some really valuable things on that journey.
What are you working on right now?
We have Red Carpet Green Dress coming up at the Oscars® and we also have some fantastic thought leadership work coming up, as well as a project on cultural sustainability. We are now on Clubhouse too, come join us in a room and listen to our talks!
What’s next for Red Carpet Green Dress
Our contest will be launching again soon! We have lots of different things going on, so the best thing is to keep up with us on all our channels.