When you hear the name Stella McCartney, a few things may come to mind. There’s her obvious family rock royalty connection, her beautiful, timeless classic designs (sold through her eponymous vegetarian clothing brand), and then there’s her commitment to driving sustainability in the fashion industry.
The vegan designer has made a career out of stepping away from the conventional way of doing things. Instead of building a brand based around leather, non-recycled synthetics, and other environmentally-destructive materials (as was the norm when she started out in the fashion industry around 25 years ago), the daughter of Sir Paul creates ethical, eco-friendly fabrics, previously unseen in high fashion houses.
Her animal-free fur, from example, has the luxurious look and feel of the real deal, demonstrating that fur farms are not only cruel but redundant. Her vegetarian leather, made with recycled polyester, has 24 times less of an environmental impact than Brazilian calf leather. Her sustainably-sourced viscose shows that, actually, it isn’t necessary to cut down 150 million trees annually to make the fabric.
McCartney is always raising the bar, striving for more innovation, and challenging the brands around her to do better. When she speaks in interviews, her key message is often the same: Change is ours for the taking, but the only way it will happen is if consumers, in concert with high fashion and fast fashion brands, work together to create it.
In honor of McCartney’s birthday this weekend, we’re highlighting her activism, and her own words, as inspiration. Here are 10 times Stella McCartney proved that she’s a sustainable fashion icon:
Why Stella McCartney is a Sustainable Fashion Icon: In Quotes
1. “Something Is Better Than Nothing”
“I’m a big believer in something is better than nothing. The smallest thing can have an impact. We are all living on this land with limited resources, and we all have to be conscious about how we consume and how we manufacture and how we source — and the fashion industry is no different than anyone else. Every industry has to be mindful of how they go forward in their business and sadly luxury fashion is incredibly harmful — and fashion in general. And it needs to just get a bit more modern and man up a bit.” — The Business of Fashion, 2015
2. “Create Pieces That People Want”
“One of the things you have to do, and the most sustainable thing you can do as a designer, is to create pieces that people want and won’t want to throw away.” — Vogue, 2019
3. “If You Really Mean It, Stop Using Leather”
“It’s one thing to give up fur, but [many of those brands] weren’t really selling fur. Or to give up exotic skins when, really, who’s buying exotic skins anymore? That’s not really a market. It’s a good message, but [those statements] can feel a little throw-away. What’s the difference between an exotic skin and a cow skin? I don’t get it—that’s the same conversation to me. If you really mean it, stop using leather, full stop, and then you’ll see a massive, massive change in the industry’s environmental impact.” — Vogue, 2019
4. “We Are All Here On Planet Earth Together”
“I was brought up to understand that we are all here on planet earth together. The idea of taking responsibility for what we take out of the Earth… it’s not something we sat down and had lessons in; as a way of thinking it came quite naturally.” — The Guardian, 2009
5. “Killing Animals for the Sake of Fashion is Unnecessary”
“We have captured a luxury and richness with our fur-free fur, which is proof to the fashion industry that killing animals for the sake of fashion is unnecessary. We have worked hard to find the perfect alternative, and we have had a really positive reaction. Everyone has been very supportive and encouraging, and it has driven changes in the way that it still looks and feels great – and, even better, is cruelty-free.” — Luxury Magazine, 2016
6. “We’re Actually Just Farming the Land”
“It’s fascinating because I grew up on an organic farm and now what I do for a living really is farming. And I think that that’s something that people don’t really realize – that in fashion design, we’re actually just farming the land, but instead of making a veggie patty out of it, we’re making a jacket. That connection is something that I find really inspiring and challenging. It just drives me.” — Net A Porter, 2019
7. “Honest, But Not Too Terrifying”
“When I was younger, being a vegetarian and an animal activist was a very delicate subject matter and it was always met with a lot of defensiveness or quite a bit of aggression. It was never an open-hearted conversation that you could have with people, so I had to be mindful of how you could plant a seed of change in people who maybe didn’t have that upbringing or the same point of view. It’s never been my way to tell people off and make them feel bad because I think it’s an overwhelming and daunting conversation. So I try to give information that’s honest but not too terrifying.” — Net A Porter, 2019
8. “There Is Another Way Of Doing Things”
“Pretending that the fashion industry isn’t in part based on leather would be quite stupid of me, but at the same time there is another way of doing things—even outside of leather. I don’t use PVC either, for example, because it is harmful. I do think that some of the largest houses are starting to put into work a clean approach to business. But it could be cleaned up quicker. In a way, it’s like politics: people are the answer to all of it. If consumers challenge the industry to change, then the fashion houses will have to answer that.” —Harpers Bazaar, 2014
9. “If I Can Do It, Anyone Can Do It”
“I spent three years of my life dedicated to finding trees from a sustainable wood and we wove that with mills that make conventional viscose. We had to train them and they resisted at first, but we persevered and now we’ve done it. I call and beg every designer to replace their viscose with my sustainable one. If I can do it, anyone can do it.” — Dezeen, 2018
10. “We Can Create An Alternative Together”
“We are trying to create a new palette. The fashion industry works with the same 10 materials and we are questioning that. Things have got to change. Those 10 materials aren’t good for the planet and we can create an alternative together.” — Dezeen, 2018
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