Designer Profile

Farm To Fashion: Stella McCartney on Her Most Sustainable Collection Yet

“When I started my company ,” Stella remarks, “no one thought I would be successful because I didn’t want to use leather, fur or feathers.” Photographed by Sebastian Bottcher for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

In an exclusive interview with Vogue Philippines, Stella McCartney talks about her monumental Summer 2024 collection, and what it means to be an environment-first designer today.

Paul and Linda McCartney brought up their young family of six in a 1930s farmhouse with only two bedrooms and one bathroom. This English countryside life was the world Stella McCartney grew up in. Frequently planting and cooking vegetables, and surrounded by horses, peacocks, and other animals, a reverence for nature became a way of life for the McCartneys. 

Stella’s fashion brand, established in 2001, has always championed vegan alternatives to animal leathers and furs. She credits her advocacy of what we now classify as “sustainable” fashion to her upbringing, to the privilege of “being raised by two vegetarians and animal rights activists.”

As a fashion designer, a United Nations representative, and special adviser on sustainability to LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault, Stella is a self-proclaimed “eco-weirdo.” “When I started my company, no one thought I would be successful because I didn’t use leather, fur, or feathers,” she explains.

Stella McCartney’s Summer 2024 collection marked the debut of the world’s first luxury garments crafted from kelsun, a seaweed-based yarn. Above, Caterina shows off the matching Falabella bag adorned with mirror polka dots. Photographed by Brendan Freeman for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

Her Summer 2024 collection centered around family, freedom, and fluidity, inspired by her parents’ shared wardrobes and how they would mix and match each other’s clothes. It is made with 95 percent responsible materials, and Stella tells Vogue Philippines that she is “so proud that this collection was our most sustainable ever.”

The monumental presentation marked the debut of the world’s first luxury garments crafted from Kelsun, a seaweed-based yarn using regenerative kelp that utilizes zero pesticides and significantly less water compared to cotton. Adorned on the hand-crocheted dresses and matching Falabella bag, as well as perforated organic cotton denim trousers, were mirrored polka dots that scintillated under the Parisian sun, as models sauntered down Marché Saxe-Breteuil.

Photographed by Brendan Freeman for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

For a day, the popular food market transformed into Stella’s Sustainable Market, a slew of booths showcasing innovative materials featured in the show for the public to experience firsthand. Among them were Keel Labs’ Kelsun, Vegea’s leather made from grape waste, and Nona Source, deadstock fabrics sourced from other LVMH maisons. “It is always my goal to raise awareness for conscious alternatives and the bold innovators behind them,” Stella says.

Believing that collaboration is essential to innovation, the Stella team works closely with companies to develop materials with a positive impact. One way they do this is through the SOS Fund, a USD200 million investment fund she co-founded that “brings planet-saving technologies out of the lab and into the mainstream” by supporting the next generation of sustainable visionaries. Most recently for Earth Day, the house launched a limited-edition SOS Capsule of vegan apparel, bags, and footwear made from 100 percent sustainable materials; specifically, regenerative, recycled, and organic fibers. The brand has pledged to donate a minimum of  €15,000 to the environmental nonprofit Conservation International from the sales of the capsule.

Photographed by Brendan Freeman for the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.
“We used the beautiful English countryside to portray
the connection with nature that is a signature for
Stella McCartney,” shares stylist Caterina Ospina. Photographed by Brendan Freeman for the June
2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

Beyond the fund, the brand continues to collaborate with other, and sometimes unexpected, players. Just days after the unveiling of their Summer 2024 collection in October of last year, Stella brought journalists to the vineyards of Bouzy, France to introduce grape-based shoes and accessories made in partnership with Veuve Clicquot. The new leather alternative was engineered using byproducts of the champagne brand’s regeneratively grown, traceable grape harvest, to create grape-based leather.

“I always like to say fashion brands are essentially farmers because of the number of raw materials we rely on as an industry,” the designer shares. Since 2019, the brand has been investing in SÖKTAŞ, a cotton farm in Turkey. With the help of Stella, SÖKTAŞ is transitioning from conventional to regenerative practices, which helps increase soil carbon sequestration, improve local biodiversity, and support farmers and communities. The farm has since seen much success in its carbon capture to date, and earned the support of LVMH partners. For Stella, it shows a great hope that “the biggest luxury conglomerate in the world is following our lead and also taking regenerative agriculture seriously!”

“I want to see a future where global industries can operate together within eco-friendly paradigms”

These joint ventures are just two of many that Stella has undertaken in her 23 years in the industry. At a time when the climate crisis is at its most urgent, she recognizes the positive conversations surrounding the changes that need to happen, but insists that it isn’t enough. The dialogue has to be reified into something that our hands can hold and Mother Earth can reap. “The next step is to accelerate action, and this should be everyone’s focus,” she points out. “This is why my attendance at COP felt so important. I want to be in the room with policymakers and heads of state who have the influence to make change.”

The Conference of the Parties or COP is the decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and an international climate summit that annually convenes member countries to determine and assess climate responsibilities and measures. At the summit’s 26th and 28th edition or COP26 and COP28 respectively, Stella was the only fashion designer present. Recognizing fashion as one of the most polluting industries on the planet, she attended COP with two missions: “one, to encourage the necessity for governments and policymakers to start putting tax breaks and benefits in place for more sustainable, circular, and cruelty-free practices, and two, to show that there are viable ways of working in a more conscious way.”

On the collection, Caterina says, “Every piece is timeless and knowing it’s all vegan and
eco-friendly is increduble for the future of fashion.” Photographed by Brendan Freeman for
the June 2024 Issue of Vogue Philippines.

For Stella, conferences like COP are remarkable spaces for communication, knowledge exchange, networking, and collaboration—at COP26, their team met many “fascinating contacts” that they now work with. In addition to COP, a part of Stella’s duties outside her own label is serving as the special advisor on sustainability to LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault.

“I want to see a future where global industries can operate together within eco-friendly paradigms,” Stella says at the end of the interview. She and her team have taken great strides in the past two decades, and they continue to be inspired and challenged by developing, implementing, and working with new alternatives. The process from idea to product often takes years, the designer says, and it’s something most people don’t realize.

But every once in a while, after a chain of trials and errors, and endless back and forths, something lands. A breakthrough comes. And for Stella, there’s no better feeling. 

Vogue Philippines: June 2024 Issue

By TICIA ALMAZAN. Photographs by BRENDAN FREEMAN. Styling by CATERINA OSPINA. Portrait by SEBASTIAN BOTTCHER. Makeup: Francesca Brazzo of The Wall Group. Hair: Bjorn Krischker of The Wall Group. Model: Cathrina Torres of Divide Management. Production Company: The Production Factory. Producer: Rachel Piper. Logistics and Location Coordinator: Toms Baritis. Photographer’s Assistant: Kristos Giourgas. Stylist’s Assistant: Janelle Williams. Special thanks to Imogen Pohl.
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