10 things we learnt from last night’s kering talk with stella mccartney

Last night saw British designer Stella McCartney join journalist Lucy Siegle for the third annual LCFxKering Talk on sustainability in luxury brands. Here’s everything we learnt.

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Nov 15 2016, 4:40pm

If anyone has the right to lecture on sustainability in luxury brands it is Stella McCartney. A designer who continues to set the industry pace for how to create and innovate without jettisoning her own beliefs, it is her forward and future thinking on the subject that has ensured both a womenswear line and a recently launched men's collection that stand at 53 and 45% sustainable respectively (not bad for an industry she herself describes as "one of the more harmful on the planet"). With the next generation of designers preparing to enter a world facing significant social and environmental challenges - we're looking at you PEOTUS - here are the ten things we learnt about fashion's quiet campaigner as she took to the stage at London College of Fashion. 

1. First and foremost, she's a fashion designer…
"I want to design beautiful, effortless, luxurious, desirable products, but I want them to be responsible and ethical and mindful at the same time. I'm hoping you don't have to sacrifice any of those things."

2. Her upbringing had a big impact on her...
"I was brought up by my mum and dad who heavily influenced me. I grew up on an organic farm in the middle of the countryside as a vegetarian with my siblings. And we were just brought up in a way that was conscious. We saw the change in the seasons. We had sheep on the land that we didn't kill for meat and we'd let them grow old and shear them and make rugs. I was very, very lucky. And that came into my place of work. I was never going to start a job that was hypocritical or compromise the way I was brought up."

3. She was made fun of when she first started…
"I was told I definitely wouldn't have a business. I wouldn't have an accessories business. I was told that by people I looked up to. And I was definitely ridiculed."

4. But she's a firm believer in infiltration...
"I've been fortunate in my career that, when I left Central Saint Martins, I was offered a job and I went into the industry. I've been lucky enough to be blessed with encountering the big players in this industry. I had choices where I could have been like, 'No, I don't want anything to do with you'. But I'd rather just get in the back door, show them how to do stuff, open up a conversation and try to encourage them to look at things differently."

5. She's still learning…
"It is a journey so I will learn. Every day I'm learning. That's the most exciting thing about what I do, We've been working on the viscose programme with Canopy, for example, for over two years. But before then, we weren't working on it. We didn't really know the impact of viscose and that it was tree pulp and that it was a big contributor to deforestation. So the minute we knew it, we decided to action it and very quickly invested time and money and love into trying to change that. Now we have viscose from sustainable forests."

6. And she prioritises…
"I look at the biggest environmental impact first. The biggest thing that we do at Stella McCartney, that's sustainable, is not use leather. So we don't use the tanning process, all of the chemicals that can have lead involved, that can have formaldehyde, that can be incredibly cancerous and cause disease to the people working with them, let alone the environment and the deforestation and the inefficient use of animals. Over a billion animals a year are killed just for fashion, for leather. Not a by-product. Over 50 million animals for fur. So I look at it in a way that I can prioritise."

7. She's not perfect…
"The minute you make something, you leave a footprint. I'm not going to sit and pretend that I'm perfect. The minute I manufacture a bag, somewhere along the road, something is being damaged. I just want to limit that damage. I find it exciting that there's so much to do. And I find it exciting that the fashion industry doesn't talk about this. We've got to start talking about it. Because otherwise, who cares really about brown being the new black? I mean, how long do you care about that for really?"

8. She's not trying to make the world vegetarian…
"I swear to god, I'm not! But I probably worry most about that because I see it as pretty unnecessary. The meat industry and farming of animals contributes to about 18% of global greenhouse gasses as opposed to all of the transport industry, which is 13%. It's a very tiny thing that people can do to have an impact."

9. But she does want people to join her…
"I just think it's the only way forward. I feel like this is happening in all the other industries. All the other major industries in the world are having to look at themselves, having to question how they manufacture and what the responsibility of that is. That's part of innovation, that's part of growth, that's part of business. We have to change."

10. And she has sound advice for consumers...
"
We've forgotten that we make the choices. I don't have a job if people don't buy my product. So it's important to know when you're consuming, to ask questions, reduce your meat intake, to look at how you're living your life and how it has an impact on the environment. You ask questions in others areas of your life. Ask them in fashion too. Fashion is literally getting away with murder and it needs to be answerable. There needs to be more systems set in place. More people need to go through more rigorous testing. And as a customer you can do that."

Credits


Text Matthew Whitehouse