Designer and mother-of-four Stella McCartney talks to Emily Seares about her lifelong passion for sustainability and how she balances work and family life.
“I try to spend as much time with my kids as possible. I take them to school every morning, I do four different drop-offs. I have unconditional love for my kids, and they know I’m there”
You started your eponymous fashion label 18 years ago, with a mission not to sacrifice sustainability for style, how does it feel now the zeitgeist is starting to catch-up?
It is something I’ve done from day one, and I’ve been doing it within my business for over 18 years. For me this is what I do, it is in every single pore of my body to be sustainable, responsible and mindful but at the same time not compromise in any way shape or form. At the end of the day, more businesses in fashion have to start thinking this way for the future of our planet. I think that it does connect me to a younger audience and I’m really so proud and grateful and I appreciate so much that it looks like the next generation of people on the planet are thinking this way in everything that they do.
How do you find the balance between family and working life?
I try to spend as much time with my kids as possible. I take them to school every morning, I do four different drop-offs. I have unconditional love for my kids, and they know I’m there. I really could not do it without the help of an amazing team both at home and at work.
What would you say to your children if they wanted to go into fashion?
You need to look at everything and explore as much as possible, this will allow you to figure out what you like, figure out your style, go to museums, draw a lot, watch old films, listen to music, get inspired and then find your niche. Also, don’t use any animal products. So save the planet whilst you are doing it, be modern. Always be honest to yourself, do not ever try to be something that you are not.
My school education was so limited I did GCSEs but dropped out after my mum passed away during my A levels. Then I went travelling for four years, and that’s where I really got my education. That’s not to say I’m anti-learning, I’m learning all the time.
Who do you imagine when you design your clothes?
My kid’s collection is always inspired by the spirit and energy of kids in general. But I also get inspired by some memories that I have as a child and try to incorporate a little of that in parts of the collection. I also look at what we’re doing for the ready-to-wear collection and try to translate some elements into what would make sense for a kids’ range, so that there is a connection between the two. Plus, we try to involve all the kids in our lives and make it a bit of a family process.
Do your children wear your clothing?
Yes! All the time, they love wearing the clothes. My message to my child customer is just enjoy our collections. You shouldn’t even really be aware of what you’re wearing, it should come so naturally and effortlessly. It shouldn’t feel like a chore. You need to choose the clothes, you need to wear them, to have fun in them, get dirty in them, to live in them and enjoy them. Most importantly, you need to be a kid in these clothes.
Your flagship Bond Street store, the House of Stella McCartney, has been described as a ‘monument to sustainability’, what was the thought process behind it?
We have purposefully put an effort to use more handmade, organic and sustainably sourced elements in the store design. We have the cleanest air in London, we brought nature into the space with trees and moss and even bespoke internal rockery, which for me is just so exciting! We have loads of recycled materials, like the foam furniture and the papier-mâché walls that are recycled from our office’s paper waste. We’ve re-purposed our ‘fur-free-fur’ for the interior of the lift and called it the ‘Stellavator’! Even the mannequins are biodegradable. The kids’ area in the store is really about escaping. There is a giant ball pit and a climbing wall and there’s just a level of innocence and freedom that’s just so important; for me the kids’ collection has just always been about that.
If you could pass one piece of advice to your children, what would it be?
My advice to anyone, whether it be my own kids, other kids or adults is do unto others as others would do unto you. It goes a long way and can be applied to everything.