“One of the biggest problems that we have in the fashion industry is we’re not policed in any way. We have no laws or legislations that will put hard stops on our industry,” said Stella McCartney at this year’s G7 Summit in Cornwall, England. The coveted designer stated that fashion is “one of the most polluting in the world”. While we know this isn’t the first time McCartney has advocated sustainable fashion, what do we really know about her ethical efforts and business model?
Back in 2001, when she opened doors to her own brand in a joint venture with Gucci Group (now Kering Group), Stella McCartney made sure to swear by a philosophy. By deeply embedding cruelty-free and ethical practices in the DNA of her brand, she firmly stood against the use of leather, fur, skins and feathers in her collections. Today McCartney has been in the business for decades, and yet, the famed designer stands aligned with her sustainable ethos.
The designer’s sustainable approach extends to her entire business, with her offices being number one on the green list. In the United Kingdom, she makes use of renewable energy to power her stores and studios. This environment-friendly energy is provided by Ecotricity, an English company that supplies green electricity produced by wind power. But that’s not it. A walk through her office will introduce you to fur-free lining elevators, papier-mâché wall made from her office’s waste paper and crystals buried under the ground for good energy.
McCartney also incorporates BNATURAL by Bonaveri—the world’s first eco-mannequin. The store features these sustainable and biodegradable mannequins, which are made out of BPlast®—a bioplastic material composed of 72% sugarcane derivative, which helps in reducing the brand’s CO2 emissions. And even though the company headquarters is in London, its DNA has permeated into every operation ground across the globe. Today, almost 45% of McCartney’s operations are run on 100% renewable, green energy. Yes, the woman has really championed sustainability.
Raw Materials And Fabrics
The main focus of Stella McCartney is to push her brand towards circularity, innovative materials and investing in cutting-edge technologies to decrease environmental impact. The stalwart of sustainable fashion has achieved so by using materials that are majorly green in composition. Here’s what you need to know about the materials used:
Leather: Since 2013, the brand has been using alter-nappa in its shoes and bags. A vegetarian alternative for leather, alter-nappa is made from polyester and polyurethane with recycled polyester backing. This leather is solvent-free, while its coating is made with over 50% vegetable oil.
Viscose: Every year, almost 150 million trees worldwide are cut down to create viscose fabric. To combat this deforestation, Stella McCartney sources viscose from sustainably managed and certified forests in Sweden. This entire path of sourcing the fabric is circular—it eliminates chemicals, incorporates energy efficiency and pushes regulations. Moreover, the company’s viscose supply chain is completely transparent and European (between Sweden, Germany, and Italy).
Cashmere: When the label realised that its usage of cashmere contributed to about 42% of its total environmental impact, it discontinued the material permanently. In place of this virgin cashmere, it now uses Re.Verso™, a form of recycled cashmere made from post-factory cashmere waste in Italy.
Recycled Nylon and Polyester: By switching to a regenerated form of nylon called ECONYL®, the brand has been able to turn waste into a resource. Discarded materials like industrial plastic, scrap fabric, and fishing nets from oceans are recycled and regenerated to create a new nylon material thatreplicates the same quality as virgin nylon.
Designs And Campaigns
The unwavering commitment of Stella McCartney towards sustainable fashion has been evident in almost every collection of hers. “I design clothes that are meant to last. I believe in creating pieces that are not going to get burnt, that are not going to landfills and that are not going to damage the environment,” she said in a press statement. What’s more impressive is the fact that the designer doesn’t just say it but really implements it.
Proof? Among the many creations of McCartney, you can find an ethical piece in almost every product category. Think sustainable eyewear made out of 50% natural and renewable resources like castor-oil seeds and citric acid, shoe soles made out of a bioplastic called APINAT which will degrade when placed in mature compost, and more.
While on the other hand, her latest Autumn 2021 campaign titled ‘Our Time Has Come’ is regarded as one of her most sustainable creation yet. Crafted with 80% environmentally-friendly materials, the collection doesn’t compromise on vibrance, energy and style.
Through this line, McCartney aims to spread awareness about her cruelty-free ethos. For this, she roped in renowned ambassadors who wore animal heads and walked around in Piccadilly Circus, London.
The Future Ahead
As more businesses move forward with conscious systems, Stella McCartney not only follows an ethical approach but measures it too. The designer has been evaluating her environmental impact since 2012 with the help of the environmental profit and loss tool invented by the Kering group. The EP&L is a form of natural capital accounting that measures the brand’s greenhouse gas emissions, water use, water pollution, land use, air pollution and waste across its entire global supply chain.
After the impacts are translated into a monetary value, the brand is able to understand the hidden costs and benefits it generates from the way it operates. This measurement helps the business to plan its strategies and operations annually with one major goal—to reduce its environmental impact every year.
Stella McCartney believes that if businesses in fashion do not measure their impacts on the surroundings, they will never be able to manage it or, worse, improve it. Today, she continues to stand by her ethical ethos and uses natural capital accounting in order to put more sustainable actions into place and create a business that works with Mother Earth rather than against her.
Photographs: Instagram, Stella McCartney