The branded and gilded interior of the Paris opera house had some unexpected visitors: animals including rhinos and cockatoos, all doing what must be done to keep nature going: having sex.
It was Stella McCartney’s conscious aim to celebrate a new chapter in her fashion life by working with LVMH. Her new front row, which included her father Paul McCartney, also had supporters from the Arnault family, including Delphine and her brother Antoine with his wife, Natalia Vodianova.
The Russian-born supermodel caused gasps from the audience as she walked up to Stella wearing a thick, luscious apparently fur coat.
“You must all talk to Natalia about that coat she’s wearing,” Stella told me. “It’s the most ecological fake fur – it’s made out of corn! It’s amazing. Can you believe it?”
The Stella McCartney style is to make clothes – sporty, modern work wardrobe or easy evening – without suggesting visually that they adhere to her belief in good causes. She started her fashion business in 2001, and 18 years on she is seen as a pioneer of environmental awareness.
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The show opened with a pale clay jacket, winter-white shirt, and softly draped trousers, all set off with bold sunglasses on a chain. The shoes, black and laced, were, of course, not made of leather.
Everything looked soft and easy, but with fashion elements – such as a blouse with scallop sleeves. That “wave” effect ran through the show. Pops of colour included a vivid green and orange, while denim was included – obviously with the correct sustainable treatment. The show ended with more scallop effects on a quilted poncho.
Every seat had an appropriately green information sheet, listing just when and what Stella had introduced, from organic cotton in 2008 to bio-based shoe soles in 2014, and incorporating 100 per cent viscose in 2016. Backstage, I passed one of Stella’s timeline sheets to Vivienne Westwood, another member of the “green” sisterhood.https://www.instagram.com/p/B3B8RWJHbvv/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=dlfix
Here’s a sample from the pertinent discussion Stella held after the show.
How radically do things need to change?
Stella McCartney: Things need to change immediately! The awareness has just been woken up. Now is the time to give people information, to give them a solution, to be positive and hopeful.
Whether things can change immediately is the question. So, I really wanted that document [the timeline] to show that if you introduce little things as soon as possible, they can have an impact. And that, for me, is really important.
I think if you just make people terrified, you have nowhere to start. We have to have a conversation where people feel that they can do little things in their life every day. And you shouldn’t have to sacrifice style or your quality of life.
I hope that when you see that fashion show, you don’t see in any way that it is a sustainable fashion show. I hope that every fabric, every girl, the music, the atmosphere, is about being desirable and beautiful and luxurious and yet it’s got all of those ingredients. That, for me, is the future of fashion. We have to get to that place.
We hear talk of a “circular textile economy”, and you hosted a talk about it with the yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur at the V&A in 2017, for her foundation. (‘A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future’.) Ultimately we take that literally, that the clothes we’ve just seen don’t end up as landfill, but how can you organise that?
Stella: There are many different ways into the circular economy. The youth of today should really only be wearing vintage, second-hand clothes, charity shop finds, renting clothes, all that kind of stuff which they are doing. And I think that’s one easy solution that can come into your life.
Technology in the fashion industry is an amazing thing. We are taking cottons, totally dismantling them, and regenerating them every time so we can re-use them. The technology, the youth culture, the spirit of it all – just take it into your own hands. But the circular economy is critical, and also the fact that in fast-fashion, every second there’s a truck full of clothes that are landfilled or incinerated. That’s 500 billion dollars-worth of business that isn’t being captured. All of that waste can be re-made with technology, and the creativity that can come out of it is so exciting. If I was a student now, that’s what I’d be excited to do.
Legislation and policy change has to happen, and is being incentivised to do business in this way. [On 26 September the French Senate approved legislation to ban the destruction of unsold non-food items such as luxury goods and cosmetics – the first nation in the world to do so.] Even journalists have to be incentivised: You need to feel like you’ve got exciting stories that people want to read. We all need to be rewarded. As a creative person, first and foremost, I find this conversation really exciting and most young designers will embrace the conversation of change. Looking at things like up-cycling and new ways of using old materials, it’s actually a really big challenge. I think most creative people like a challenge.
What difference does LVMH make to you? In a sentence.
Stella: No, it’s not a sentence, because you can talk about business and structure, but the difference it makes to me at this stage is an incredible opportunity for change and having a conversation that can be of impact. On another side, I am so excited to work with the greatest luxury house in the world. But being a sustainability advisor to Monsieur Arnault is as exciting as coming into their stable. The two go hand in hand. Hopefully, I think it’s the future.
And what about sex? Why were we looking at sex and not your clothes?
SM: Hopefully you saw enough of the animals having sex by the time the show started to then focus on the show, Suzy! It really is about getting back to nature, and having a sense of humour. You know at Stella McCartney I try to have a sense of humour because life’s too short, right? Enjoy it!