Stella McCartney, the designer with sustainability in her soul

Stories of Success

11:42 am

29 January 2021

Tomorrow starts today. It’s a phrase that embodies the outlook of Stella McCartney, the British designer and sustainability champion who has built the success of her eponymous brand on the back of this ethos. Having long emerged from the shadow of her parents, McCartney is preparing to mark 20 years of her eco-conscious luxury fashion brand with the publication of a new Manifesto setting out every aspect of her philosophy, including the ethical principles she holds dear and the intricacies of her unmistakeable style.

 

The concept behind responsible luxury

Stella McCartney has always spoken of her commitment to applying the principles that guide her personal life to her work, according to the tomorrow starts today mantra. One of the pioneering voices championing the changes required to build a fashion industry based on ethics, sustainability and ecology, the British stylist has made this approach a central part of her life. “I want people to choose my bags because of what they represent, not because they’re not made from leather,” she once remarked in an interview. A vegetarian and an animal lover, McCartney believes deeply in the importance of everything she does. She was one of the first designers anywhere in the world to start promoting responsible luxury fashion, a model based on clear ethical principles and a business ethos which decries the exploitation of animals. Quite simply, McCartney comes at fashion from a different angle – and it’s all underpinned by a burning passion for her work. It’s part of the reason that she’s earned the nickname Stella Steel.

 

“My mantra is tomorrow starts today. I want people to choose my bags because of what they represent, not because they’re not made from leather.”

 

The story of this talented designer, born and raised in London and the English countryside, has been a case of one success after the other. McCartney released her debut collection shortly after graduating from Central Saint Martins. Her impeccable sartoriality, natural confidence in tailoring and “effortless” feminine style – now the trademark of her fashion brand – were immediately on display. After her critically acclaimed spell as the Creative Director Chloé in Paris, in 2001 McCartney released the first collection from her eponymous brand, launched in collaboration with Kering (as a 50/50 joint venture). Every Stella McCartney gown and accessory collection the brand has every released has been completely free from animal materials like fur and leather. It’s a decision that McCartney has always supported, for both ethical and environmental reasons. The brand uses synthetic alternatives to leather, which helps to cut waste and reduce the damaging environmental effects caused by the greenhouse gas emissions associated with animal husbandry, not to mention the energy usage and water consumption that leather production requires. In Brazil, the livestock industry is a driver of deforestation, which has a significant knock-on effect on ecosystems. It’s also inefficient in terms of production per hectare, which means that leather originating from livestock farming in Brazil has a very high environmental impact per kilo.

As a company, Stella McCartney is striving to develop new ways to reduce its environmental impact through the use of innovative techniques throughout its supply chain. As part of its modern, responsible sustainability strategy, the company does more than simply avoiding leather and fur. The brand has also introduced regenerated cashmere in place of virgin cashmere, while sustainable viscose has been brought in too. Both are more environmentally friendly choices. Another key part of the brand’s environmental mission was the publication of its first global environmental profit and loss report (EP&L) for 2015. This report was the precursor to the new Manifesto on values and objectives recently published by the brand.

 

“It grew into the McCartney A to Z Manifesto – a map of our DNA and a blueprint of our future intentions; everything we know, believe and love about fashion. I wanted to define who we are and who we hope to be.”

 

The new A to Z Manifesto

Stella McCartney, whose 20-year marriage with sustainable fashion continues to go from strength to strength, has reaffirmed her commitment to green fashion ahead of the upcoming Spring/Summer 2021 events with the publication of a new Manifesto. The A to Z Manifesto sets out the brand’s achievements so far and the steps it needs to take in the future. The designer has long been a champion of sustainability in fashion, but it was during lockdown that she was able to take the time to reflect on the role her brand plays in the fashion sector and the world of sustainability as a whole. Each letter of the alphabet has a new guideline or principle, providing greater clarity on the work the brand is doing for the benefit of the environment, every day.

“It grew into the McCartney A to Z Manifesto – a map of our DNA and a blueprint of our future intentions; everything we know, believe and love about fashion. I wanted to define who we are and who we hope to be. It is a guide to keep us accountable and a challenge to be the best sustainable fashion house anywhere,” writes the designer on her website. The manifesto will guide every aspect of the Spring/Summer 2021 prêt-à-porter collection, from materials to production, and reflects the core Stella McCartney values of zero waste, circular fashion and upcycled fabrics. Each letter was styled by internationally renowned artists, close friends like Jeff Koons, Olafur Eliasson and William Eggleston, and even Stella’s mother, Linda McCartney.

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