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Stella McCartney, the pioneer of environmentally-friendly fashion

For more than 20 years now, Stella McCartney has been reconciling the irreconcilable and forging ahead while pulling many of the big names of fashion along in her wake. So who is she?
Daughter of Paul McCartney (from The Beatles) and his wife Linda, an American musician and photographer, Stella McCartney was born in England in 1971. She had a very uncomplicated upbringing on a farm in Sussex, where the family grew its own vegetables and farmed its own sheep. She lived a “hippie” lifestyle with her parents, who by that time had become militantly vegetarian after having stayed at an ashram in India, at a time when it was not yet commonplace to do so. Here’s the life story of this visionary woman, the first to have married up green fashion and style.

First and foremost a superwoman 

Fashion, true fashion, was a passion of McCartney’s from early childhood onwards. Just after secondary school she went on to attend the famous Central Saint Martins school of fashion in London.

Two years after graduating, she took over from Karl Lagerfeld as Creative Director of Chloé, thereby quadrupling the fashion house’s sales.

Four years later, in 2001, McCartney set up her own fashion house within Kering group. At barely 30 years old! Two years later, she opened 3 stores (in London, Los Angeles and New York) where a trendy young customer base promptly adopted her stylish, on-trend brand. She went on to have her clothing line distributed in 40 countries.

This young prodigy didn’t stop there. In 2003 she created her Stella perfume with L’Oréal, and her beauty product line named Care (certified organic, free of parabens, preservatives and silicon, in biodegradable packaging).

In 2008, McCartney created an upscale lingerie line, with retro embroidery, made from organic biodegradable fabric. She also created accessories, which is how her Falabella bag came to be. Made from plant-based leather, it’s still a best-seller (and has been since 2010). Then came a childrenswear collection (Stella Mc McCartney Kids) with the same eco-friendly approach, and eyewear. She went on to create a second perfume, a menswear collection and a swimwear line, all while bringing up her four children.

A subtle alliance between glamour and a principled stance

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Like her mother, McCartney is a vegetarian, and also an eco-warrior standing up for animal rights at PETA. She was also the first to raise the fashion industry’s awareness of environmental responsibility.

Right away, her militant stance revolutionised fashion by shunning fur and leather, and also mohair, angora and feathers. Instead, she favoured all-natural materials and synthetic ones like neoprene and imitation leather. 

This was a radical break from all that had gone before, especially on the luxury scene where fur and leather were staples. McCartney explains that “50 million animals a year are killed just for the fashion industry, and the link between food, diseases and the environment is a global problem. Even if it can cost 70% more, we absorb these costs in our profit margin and develop our products differently, without using glue that comes from horses, pigs or fish.” 

Idealism that turns into pragmatism

The indefatigable Stella McCartney is a firm believer in collaborations, whereby she imposes the same uncompromising approach fostering environmentally-responsible fashion on the brands that she works with.

For 20 years now she has been working with Adidas, for which she creates sportswear collections with clothes that are comfortable, made from performance fabrics and on trend. Adidas by Stella McCartney comprises jogging, gymnastics, yoga, tennis, winter sports and cycling apparel as well as swimwear. She also kitted out Team Great Britain for the 2012 Olympic Games, so successfully that she did the same four years later for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

McCartney also collaborates on capsule collections with Gap and H&M, and here too, this iconic figure imposes her values and demands when it comes to sustainability. Her determination goes as far as revising the laundry care labels on H&M clothes to get consumers to launder their clothes less frequently. For Target Australia she created 42 designs made from natural fabrics. It’s actually a movement that makes her mark wherever she goes!

Vouching for green at big fashion corporations

At Kering group McCartney set ethics-driven targets for the whole group’s procurement. Then, in 2018, she took full over full control of her brand.

At the same time she opened a new store in London, which she said was the most sustainable yet, thanks to its air purification technology.

In 2019, she began a collaboration with LVMH and was enlisted as sustainability advisor to Bernard Arnault.

Innovation applied to naturalness


That same year, her runway show featured Natalia Vodianova, dressed in black Koba, a biodegradable type of plant-based fake fur. Her collection was more eco-friendly than ever and a burst of innovation, developed using materials like raffia, organic cotton and regenerated nylon. 

In 2020, she took it even further by unveiling creations designed using mushroom fibre. First came a bag, then clothes, made from a material named Mylo. Made out of mushroom filaments, it’s said to be infinitely renewable. McCartney designs her own sustainable materials, and strives to reduce the environmental impact across the whole manufacturing process. 

A sensual feminine feel and high-quality cut, easy-to-wear stretch clothes for women with an active lifestyle, oversized jumpers, gossamer blouses, floaty dresses, stretch trousers in attractive muted colours… Stella McCartney’s style reconciles desirability and environmental responsibility like only she can.

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