At the height of the pandemic, one of fashion’s most prominent eco-warriors found good reason to hope for the future. As part of ELLE’s take on the future of fashion, Stella McCartney explained why she continues to raise the bar and why sustainability cannot exist without solidarity.
You have been a champion of sustainable design since the creation of your brand, but you are also a luxury brand. Have your ideas on this latter category changed at all during this period?
From day one of my brand almost 20 years ago, I have always known that if I was going to start this business, the only way to do it was to stay true to my beliefs. It was important for me to stay informed and to make conscious and responsible decisions for both animals and our planet. From the start, I never worked with leather, feathers or furs. There have been many challenges along the way and I know we are not perfect, we always strive to do better, but I am proud to be able to show that you can create luxury fashion and desirable accessories from around the world. ‘a way that’s better for the planet and better for animals without sacrificing style for durability. Innovation is at the heart of what we do here. In 2010, we stopped using PVC which is by far the most toxic of all plastics. In 2016, we took two important steps: we stopped using virgin cashmere and introduced sustainable viscose. Virgin cashmere has about 7 times less impact than virgin cashmere. Viscose comes from trees and our sustainable viscose ensures that no deforestation occurs. We are able to trace the journey of our viscose ready-to-wear collections to their roots in certified sustainably managed forests in Sweden. As part of the fall 2020 collection, we started using KOBA, a new fur-free fur made from vegetable pulp and recycled polyester that uses around 30% less energy and 63% less carbon emissions. . These are just a few of the things we have done that I am most proud of that define the modernity of the brand and continue to challenge me.
If anything, this period has only strengthened my belief in the way we work at Stella McCartney and will also cause us to challenge ourselves more. We were already working with leftover fabrics from previous seasons for the spring collection when the crisis hit. I was already trying to think differently because I am keen to reduce our impact, our footprint and continue to develop our sustainable practices in all aspects of the business. I hope this crisis will help my peers in our industry and others to see that doing business this way has its benefits.
Do you foresee the current climate as a period that will help or hinder the sustainability movement? In what way?
I still have high hopes, I really hope that the end of the pandemic will give us all a sense of values. In fashion, sustainability must be a priority. Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world. For the first time in the history of this pandemic, we can truly measure the damage caused by human activity. The equivalent of a garbage truck of textiles is burned or sent to a landfill every second, we cannot stand idly by and let this continue. I really hope this moment in time turns the corner. I’m a realist and I know these changes won’t come overnight, I’m happy with any slight change. I think we would all be doing ourselves a disservice if we don’t come out with a conscious result. We have to stop and consider the waste. We should buy less and buy better. Change will not only come from us as an industry, but also from consumer behavior – it can be our gift to the planet.
You have a long-standing partnership with Adidas. People are certainly embracing comfort and seclusion at home more than ever before. Do you foresee this trend influencing your main line?
I started the Adidas collaboration in 2004 because I wanted to change what I saw there. Sports performance clothing for women was not a topic that was really addressed by fashion – there was not a lot of variation in the design and I saw this moment as a good opportunity to offer women something. something that they could practice on and still feel good about their appearance. Today, sportswear has become a lifestyle choice for women around the world and is more important than ever. There has always been a link between my collections with colors and prints and comfort. With the Adidas collection, we are also keen to ensure that fabrics are made in a sustainable and ethical manner, we keep our brand ethics at the forefront while trying to push all angles with technology, manufacturing and fashion to try to be as avant-garde. -think as possible.
The fashion world realizes that running a truly sustainable business goes far beyond raw materials and includes embracing diverse perspectives. Thoughts?
We cannot have sustainability without solidarity. We can have a positive impact on people and on the planet. It is our responsibility to use our platform to make a difference and we are taking action to make diversity our reality. It is a turning point. We see that there is hope and what we can accomplish when we rise up together.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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