With responsible fashion as today’s hot topic, we salute the pioneer of sustainable chic.
With barely concealed glee, Stella McCartney trots onto the stage of London’s Royal Albert Hall to receive the first-ever Special Recognition Award for Innovation as part of the British Fashion Council’sFashion Awards for 2017. “I really ask that you have another one of these awards next year [so] I can hand it to somebody else,” the designer says, teetering in a pair of impossibly high heels and wearing a moiré off-the-shoulder dress from her own label, the overinflated sleeves of which give her the look of a Regency-era beauty. The 46-year-old’s succinct but significant speech highlights not only the fact that fashion has been slow to recognise the importance of innovation itself, but also that McCartney is one of the few provocateurs so far willing to tackle the environmental crisis.
“I have great respect for the history and the craft of what I do. But the way things are done and the fabrics used haven’t changed in a century. There’s a resistance to innovation,” McCartney tells BAZAAR in an interview. “Technology now allows us options to question the process. We are responsible for the resources we use and the impact they have on the environment. In the luxury goods business you can’t accept downgraded quality, but the fashion industry is killing our planet, so something has to change.”
It’s true, the fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters, second only to the oil industry. But the manifesto to which McCartney has stayed true since she launched her eponymous label in 2001—no skins, no fur, no feathers— is starting to filter into the fashion mainstream both locally and internationally. This past October, Gucci announced it was going fur-free from this season as part of a wider sustainability plan (it’s a noteworthy move, as Gucci and McCartney belong to the same parent company, Kering). “I think people are more conscious of how they consume, and it’s opened up a conversation,” McCartney says. “Why shouldn’t fashion be part of that conversation? It’s one of the more harmful industries, and I think people are slowly becoming more aware ... I see it in the new generation: they are more conscious of this. It surprises me in a really exciting and encouraging way that I can talk about these things now and that people are more interested in it. They want to have more information.”
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