“Glamour for its own sake is not something I have ever been particularly interested in,” Stella McCartney said backstage after her catwalk show. Which could sound like a facetious statement from a fashion designer who was, at that moment, standing among the marble-slabbed floors, elaborately frescoed ceilings and giant chandeliers of the Palais Garnier opera house, where the show was staged.
But McCartney has broken down barriers between high fashion and ethical fashion by straddling two worlds. Her mission statement is that clothes made from sustainable viscose and cruelty-free alternatives to leather should not be targeted at a niche market, but shown to hold their own on the Paris fashion week catwalk.
The invitations to this show were rolls of logoed eco-friendly, recycled and recyclable bin bags made from low-density polyethylene, stamped with the label’s logo. The designer’s most recent advertising campaign was shot in a Scottish landfill site, featuring the models Birgit Kos in a camel jumpsuit on top of the decaying wreck of a car, and Iana Godnia in a green lace party dress prone on a bed of cardboard and flattened milk cartons.
The bin bags, and the campaign, were intended to encourage debate about wastefulness in the fashion industry, in which McCartney is engaging by using yarn made from plastic bottles retrieved from the seas by the Parley for the Oceans initiative to make a Parley Ultra Boost trainer and the Ocean Legend Falabella handbag. In partnership with the fashion resale site The RealReal, McCartney is also embracing the “circular economy” by encouraging resale as one strategy for reducing the 75% of clothes worldwide that end up in landfill.
This collection was strong on the day-to-night staples the Stella McCartney customer wants. (The designer herself was wearing tailored caramel-coloured trousers with a toning crew neck knit, because “it’s work, and I have too much to do to get dressed up”.) The double-breasted blazer which is on every front row this season came with an elbow-length sleeve for spring, while jumpsuits, a signature of the label, came slinky and tailored or in a blowsier boiler suit silhouette. French taffeta evening separates – a puffball skirt, and a ruffled blouse – were pressed flat to drag them up to date. “I’ve always done that with party dresses – take the lining out to flatten them, or chop into them,” said McCartney.
Next year, Stella McCartney’s London flagship store will move from Bruton Street to a landmark Old Bond Street location. The move is the most prominent symbol of the label’s strong financial results. In 2016, turnover rose 31% to £41.7m, while profits increased 42.5% to £7m. The label also releases environmental profit and loss results, measuring the business’s environmental impact.
In 2016, this impact rose 2%, an increase significantly smaller than the growth of the business. The company said its rising production and sales were largely offset by reductions in the impact of raw material use, for instance by replacing virgin cashmere fibres with regenerated cashmere that had previously been considered a waste material.