The products we consume, buy and wear every day almost always have consequences – for society, for animals and for the planet. Think, for example, of migration, the torturous conditions of factory workers, or the devastating climate impacts of animal farming! But living a sustainable life and foregoing the comforts and luxuries of modern life do not always go hand in hand. We want to look good, we want to feel good, but we also want to do good somehow. Since its launch in 2001, the Stella McCartney brand has been creating luxury clothing that celebrates modern femininity while eschewing leather, feathers and fur.
So McCartney, 51, is trying to ease some of the “guilt”. The first vegan “It” bag, for example, is made of faux leather and has a chic silver chain trim. The British designer has spent his career showing the world that ethical choices don’t necessarily mean compromising on glamour. You’re not being punished for your choices.” Two decades after her launch, Stella McCartney is a constant in the fashion world, creating clothes that are known for their sharp tailoring, minimalist lines and bold aesthetic as much as their eco-friendliness. A pioneer, she has collaborated with start-ups to develop non-violent (!), sustainable materials such as grape leather, forest-friendly rayon and recycled cashmere, which have made up 90% of her last two collections. “Stella McCartney’s inspirational leadership in fur-free fashion is unparalleled,” said Jeffrey Flocken, President of Humane Society International. “Millions of animals on fur farms suffer deprivation and pain for the fur trade, and animals trapped and strangled in the wild also suffer terribly – simply for fashion items that no one needs.”
The daughter of legendary Beatle Paul McCartney and legendary animal rights campaigner Lind McCartney, Stella grew up on an organic farm and has been a vegetarian all her life. She refused to use leather or fur and designed clothes that were both elegant and ethical. “I don’t want people to buy my clothes because they know they’re not made of leather,” she said. “I just want them to want the boots. I always design what I want to wear,” she said in 2004. And her colleague Tom Ford agrees: “Stella’s style has become influential because she’s the customer.”
McCartney studied at Central Saint Martins before being chosen in 1997 as the successor to Karl Lagerfeld by the French house of Chloé, who was vocal in his criticism of the decision. However, he quickly proved his worth at Chloé, and in 2001 he launched his own collection under his own name with Kering. One of the first things that could be pointed out about her style was her playfulness. At a party to celebrate his work at H&M, for example, the movable dinner was served not by waiters but by toy trains that ran around the track in an old red-brick school building. And the invitation to the spring 2007 show was a Little Miss Stella storybook by Adam Hargreaves, and his models walked the runway (as usual) with huge smiles.
Over the years, McCartney’s work has increasingly extended beyond fashion: in the past few years, he has met world leaders at the G-7 and UN climate change conferences, and co-founded the $200 million Collab SOS fund to support climate solutions. As sustainability has become a business imperative, so too has his brand become increasingly desirable. In 2018, he bought back the 50% stake Kering had held for 17 years – only to join forces with Kering’s main rival LVMH the following year. There, he was appointed special advisor to CEO Bernard Arnault on sustainability, who said in a statement that “it was a decisive factor that he was the first to put sustainability and ethics issues at the forefront very early on”.
Although buying clothes probably won’t save the planet, buying better clothes can certainly help. And if you’re tired of turning a blind eye to animal cruelty on fur, leather and feather farms, it’s time to check out McCartney’s animal-friendly collections.