Stella’s Fo­cus on the Fu­ture

She has al­ways es­chewed leather, fur, and feath­ers in her col­lec­tions. Now she is go­ing even fur­ther. Will lux­ury fash­ion fol­low?

Fast Company - - Contents - By Mary Kaye Schilling

De­signer Stella Mc­cart­ney is ag­i­tat­ing to re­duce the fash­ion in­dus­try’s en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print. Her lat­est pas­sion: bio­engi­neered thread.

Con­sider your fa­vorite T-shirt. Maybe it’s soft and worn, or fit­ted and new, or a re­cent pickup from a Kanye West or Tay­lor Swift tour. What­ever the style, chances are good the shirt con­tains polyester—a sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tant that takes 200 years to de­grade. If you don’t want the shirt to spend those years in a land­fill, you could try pass­ing it on for seven gen­er­a­tions; maybe in two it would be fash­ion­ably retro. Even then, as you wash Kanye and Tay­lor (though never to­gether), they will be shed­ding syn­thetic mi­crofibers into the oceans. Now think about all the peo­ple in the world do­ing the same thing—hu­mans con­sume 80 bil­lion pieces of cloth­ing a year, as re­ported in the 2015 doc­u­men­tary The True Cost—and you get a sense of how the ap­parel in­dus­try has be­come one of the most pol­lut­ing on earth.

Thoughts like these keep de­signer Stella Mc­cart­ney up at night. The life­long veg­e­tar­ian has never used leather, skins, fur, or feath­ers in her prod­ucts, a re­mark­able achieve­ment given the hefty profits made from ac­ces­sories and cloth­ing cre­ated with those ma­te­ri­als. That was a rad­i­cal stand when she landed her first big job, head­ing the French house Chloé, at just 25 years old, in 1997, be­fore sus­tain­abil­ity was even a topic in fash­ion—and an even big­ger one when, in 2001, she launched her epony­mous la­bel, a 50-50 part­ner­ship with Ker­ing, one of Europe’s two pow­er­house fash­ion con­glom­er­ates. Two years later she in­tro­duced or­ganic cot­ton to the run­way, which quickly evolved to or­ganic silks and wools, re­gen­er­ated cash­mere, and re­cy­cled polyester. To­day, roughly half of ev­ery col­lec­tion is made with sus­tain­able ma­te­ri­als, some­thing no other top la­bel can claim. When it comes to sus­tain­abil­ity, “Stella is cur­rently run­ning laps around the other lux­ury de­sign­ers,” says Ni­cole Ry­croft, the founder and di­rec­tor of the en­vi­ron­men­tal non­profit Canopy.

She is look­ing ahead again. Mc­cart­ney’s lat­est ven­ture is a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bolt Threads, an eight-year-old startup that has cre­ated a prod­uct called Mi­crosilk, which is bio­engi­neered to mimic the chem­istry and strength of real silk cre­ated by spi­ders in na­ture. The re­sult­ing ma­te­rial will be a triple win if it can be pro­duced at enough scale to be used in fash­ion: No in­sects are killed or harmed, the use of petroleum is limited, and man­u­fac­tur­ing it does not re­quire re­sources like land or wa­ter.

On the cover: Pho­to­graphs by Sa­man­tha Ca­so­lari (Mc­cart­ney); Pari Dukovic (Du­rant) This page: Pho­to­graph by Sa­man­tha Ca­so­lari

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.