Stella McCartney: “Today is another day”

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This article is published in number 15 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until April 13, 2021

The law of fashion is simple. Whoever gets there first loses. Whoever arrives later loses. Only those who arrive at the right time win. “Then give me the
award for the worst stylist ever ». Stella McCartney moves into his home in England with his computer in hand. Laughs, adjusts i
hair and then sinks into a sofa as he replies via Zoom. A veteran of sustainable fashion, she started first, often alone, almost always looked at as the elephant in the glassware.

“You know those dinners where your vegetarian dish arrives and the one next to you looks at you pitying you for the eggplant puree that looks like poop?”

Not exactly. But the question is: how did you react?
«Like my mother: never lecture on dead animals and ecology because no one wants to hear a proclamation, much less to be attacked at a dinner. Usually, I’ve learned to make fun of myself, trying to find the fun side of the situation. It is the best way to approach the subject. And to make those around you think without going through a sense of guilt ».

The lightness that wins over radicality?
“Exact! And I’ve experienced it all my life. To face the most uncomfortable conversations, and sustainability is a very awkward topic, it is better to proceed lightly, with irony and even with a bit of glamor. I always say: keep your conversation sexy or no one will really listen to you. Because no one wants to be punished for what they eat or what they wear. Better to make him understand how beautiful, cool, fun and also cool it is to be green, sustainable, vegetarian ».

Let’s go back to your career as a designer: have you ever felt frustrated at seeing that she came first and then another brand, years later, was clearly inspired by her projects and obtained double, perhaps triple her success?
“And who has time for frustration? To think, to create our sustainable and animal-free collections, to find the factories that are
willing to work for us, to allow ourselves the luxury of making mistakes several times before making a fiber or a leather that does not use anything animal and respects the planet, it takes years. And it’s never over. And then do you know what I tell you? But who cares about frustration! I’m certainly not the girl who preaches you to tell you that she arrived first! The frustration I keep it for the animals that are killed to get a handbag. That’s frustrating. “

She often repeats that much of what she does, much of what she thinks comes from her mother’s example. How important was it to have a mom like that?
«I would not be who I am without having had a mother but also a father like that. Growing up under the wing of their example was like looking at a light. At the same time, though, with two such powerful personalities, you sometimes don’t give credit to what you do. But I did it anyway, I believed in it and continue to do so ».

His mother passed away many years ago. Do you miss it?
“I miss him every day. I miss everything about her. Then I look at the business he founded many years ago, precisely in 1991, practically when talking about ecology was really difficult. Today the one he founded is one of the most famous vegetarian brands and is growing by 50% every year. I find it great. But, yes, I miss it so much. But do you know what I miss most? Its light ».

Today she is trying to illuminate a large luxury group, LVMH, with her example of sustainable fashion. How much is there still to do in the fashion industry?
“The problem is not what needs to be done. The problem is that we are only at the beginning. I’ll give you an example. We develop various special materials in
replacement of animal skin or polluting raw materials. It takes years, experiments, patents, collaborations. And it’s like organic food: an organic apple costs more than a normal one. So at the end of each collection we find ourselves with two questions. The first is the profit margin, which becomes negligible if you want to be competitive. And I want, I pretend to be competitive. What use would my efforts be if I made clothes and accessories that only very few can afford? Second: when you arrive in certain markets, such as the United States, our animal free materials, not being recognized as animal skin, are taxed more. And so a company like ours is penalized twice. I repeat: there is much, much to do. Even at the political level, not just industrial. I have been doing it for twenty years and maybe one day the case of my brand will be studied in the history of costume and its revolution. But that doesn’t really matter to me. What matters to me, what excites me is something else ».

What?
«The new generations. They are the ones who are forcing the change. I am looking for values, not commodities. And you can’t cheat them because if you lie they’ll catch you right away. I admire them deeply. Because they understood that the revolution depends on everyone’s actions. Especially from those of consumers ».

Yet there are those who use sustainability to cheat them. And we come to the topic of green washing: how do you protect yourself, what can you do?
«The answer to this question is all in those who ask it, that is, in you, in the media. The media today have a duty to tell the truth and expose lies. Newspapers, TVs, sites must have the balls to make it clear who is serious and who instead washes his conscience by writing a check to plant some trees somewhere. The green revolution is a question of substance and method. Not marketing ».

Has the pandemic helped us take some steps forward?
“Yes, many. We have understood even more, for example, that for our every action, every single action, there is a real, real, strong reaction on the planet. From health to economy, from politics to fashion ».

About fashion. His commitment as a designer has influenced many other sectors. I saw it in an Audi talk, for example. The umpteenth demonstration of how significant his work is?
“More than anything else, yet another demonstration of what still needs to be done. The world of electric cars has changed a lot and certainly for the better not only thanks to innovations but also to state policies that have promoted incentives to push industries and consumers to change. The same mechanism should happen for the fashion system: as long as the state does not intervene decisively through laws and incentives, everything will be left to private individuals alone. And that’s too little. We need to go further ».

Where would you like to go? How do you see yourself in ten years?
“Old. But alive, I hope. Let’s say that I prefer to think about the present, about what I can do now ».

And what can be done practically, simple in the next year, say in the next week, or rather in the next few days?
«Stop thinking about making the revolution overnight. Or to change your lifestyle in one day. It’s best to start small
actions. How to reduce the consumption of animal meat. If you give it up once a week, for example, the result in terms of pollution is equal to living without transport for a week. I always say: a small gesture contributes to a mass result. Just believe. Just do it. Now. Now. Sustainability is not the future. Sustainability is the present ».

Foto MARY McCARTNEY

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