PENNY McCORMICK talks to STELLA McCARTNEY who has used her DESIGN CAREER as a platform to push her ENVIRONMENTAL AGENDA …
Stella McCartney knows there’s no point in having power if you don’t put it to good use. And right now she is outraged, “Only one per cent of clothing is currently recycled! Only one per cent, so the fashion industry still has a long way to go. Everyone has the power to make a change.”
Looking at some of McCartney’s own initiatives in her new flagship store in London, which opened in June, we can see how she has implemented her recycling agenda. From the mannequins, made from biodegradable sugarcane derivatives, to the leopard print Falabella Go backpack I have my eye on (created from fishing nets), the shop and its contents show the ongoing relationship between nature and architecture as well as fashion.
“We played with contrasts … the hard and the soft, the masculine and the feminine, which is a big part of my designs,” says McCartney. “Sustainability is also a massive part of the story; we have purposefully put effort into using more handmade, organic and sustainably-sourced elements in the design. We have the cleanest air in London thanks to breakthrough Airlabs filtering technology that removes 95 per cent of the air pollutants and harmful gases.” She continues, “It was very important that there was nature in the space, so we have a garden with trees and moss, and we even have an internal rockery, which for me is just so exciting. We have an interesting mix of recycled materials, such as foam furniture and papier-mâché walls that are recycled from our office’s paper waste.”
If early decriers (including prominent designers) ignored her cruelty-free, environmental ethos when she established her eponymous label in 2001, they are hastily trying to catch up with McCartney’s integrity and prescience. A recent triumph was sourcing sustainable viscose (a three-year quest). “Viscose is made from trees and 150 million of them are cut down each year in the name of fashion, it’s madness. Now all the viscose we use at Stella McCartney is sustainable.”
This victory follows hot on the heels of one of the most rewarding years of her career. In addition to opening the flagship store, McCartney took back control of her brand, buying out the 50 per cent share from Kering to become sole owner, though declined to say from whence the funding came. Annual turnover was a healthy ¤260m last year, excluding her ongoing Adidas collaboration. Of course, she also designed those dresses. The mustard yellow silk cady outfit as worn by Amal Clooney to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding. And, drumroll please, the white crêpe-de-chine halterneck evening gown as worn by Duchess Meghan, which drew a collective sigh of approval when debuted at Windsor Castle. McCartney is delighted of course with such prestigious patronage, but she’s not resting on her (recycled) laurels. “It’s very important to us that we contribute towards a circular economy – resources are running out and we are constantly working to find new, innovative ways of making our business circular, such as making textiles back into textiles.” If all this sounds a bit preachy, it’s reassuring to know McCartney also likes to have fun. Of the store’s designs she tells me, “We repurposed the fur-free-fur from a previous collection for the interior of the lift. For me, it was also important to have a sense of humour with the design and not take ourselves too seriously, our kids area has a ball pit and climbing wall.” It might not be everyone’s idea of fun but there’s a strong chance McCartney will have the last laugh. I predict some interactive eco retail interiors as a result. Furthermore, come winter, we’ll all be repurposing our old Aran sweaters – suddenly cool again since they appeared on her AW18 catwalk. “I wanted to softly deconstruct classic and timeless pieces in a modern way,” she says of the sweaters, which fall from the body. Effortlessly.
Stella McCartney is at Brown Thomas, Dublin.
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