Stella McCartney has been synonymous with sustainability for almost two decades. From day one she has led by example, championing exceptional alternatives to fabrics and manufacturing processes that cause significant damage to the environment. Her knowledge of the business is as impressive as her collections designed for women who want to feel simultaneously strong yet feminine.
Not taking any prisoners, she doesn’t shy away from calling out industry practices she doesn’t agree with and strongly believes that you can create exceptional pieces with minimum damage to the planet. Inspiring, bold and incredibly smart, Stella has and will continue to inspire the next generation of designers.
What new sustainability elements can we look forward to in your S/S20 collection?
Summer 2020 was our most sustainable collection to date with over 75 per cent of the collection being made with sustainable fabrics. Every single season we try and get better and better and better, so this season is a huge achievement for us. A total of 90 per cent of the cot- ton we used this season was organic, and all the denim in the collection used organic cotton. We showed a lot of reimagined tailoring this season where the majority was made from Japanese recycled polyester, a fabric we have been using since 2012 and requires less than half the energy to produce than Virgin Polyester would. We also used traceable wool in our knitwear pieces as transparency of the supply chain is something very important to us here. As usual there’s no leather or animal glues which have a huge impact on the environment due to animal agriculture farming and cutting down rainforests and water usage. I really think the most important thing now – while this is a hot topic – is capturing the momentum and showing people this is how we can all do it like this. Everyone can work this way. If I can do it, everyone can.
Being sustainable is not an easy route for a brand to take. How challenging is it to evolve the collections and still remain an ethical luxury brand?
You know, I’ve been doing this from day one in the brand – it will be 20 years next year. We have worked really hard in order to do what we do successfully and have overcome many challenges along the way. I think one of the things I’m most proud of is being able to show that you can create luxury fashion in a way that’s not hurting the environment, in a way that’s better for the planet, and it’s better for the animals yet not sacrificing anything in the process.
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Why do you think so many fashion brands are slow to embrace sustainability?
I look around and see that the conversation is finally here. As one of the most polluting industries in the world, the fashion industry is now at a crossroads where we need to come together and achieve sustainable change to build a better future. I think we are getting there, brands are finally starting to wake up and realise that if they don’t start now, they won’t have a business in five years. That said, doing business in this way isn’t the low-cost route which is something you have to sacrifice, and so for many brands who have to focus on the bottom line it isn’t the easy option. In order to really have a conversation about sustainability, we’re going to have to put in some kind of parameters and laws, and people are going to have to be told they can’t use X, Y and Z. There has to be a starting point for the industry so they are encouraged not punished.
If we could all avoid buying one type of fabric, which do you feel would have the greatest impact?
Viscose (or Rayon) is one of the most used fabrics, and it cuts down around 150 million trees a year. I spent around three-and-a-half years with my own team to source a forest in Sweden where we could get that viscose fiber from the trees where we replant trees, so it’s sustainable sourcing. It’s simple right, it’s a no-brainer. We now only ever use sustainable viscose when we use viscose and if all brands started sourcing viscose in this way it would have a huge impact on our planet.
Do you think the current global situation will slow down the fashion world and encourage conscious buying?
I think we all know that we’re creatures of habit so I don’t know if slowing down will necessarily happen but I would like to think that the fashion industry might stay in this moment for longer than expected. I think if we can all come back and see through the same eyes that we’re seeing through now, it would be an incredible gift.
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