McCartney at the “End Sexual Violence in Conflict” Summit, June 2014
|Born||Stella Nina McCartney
13 September 1971
Lambeth, London, England
|Spouse(s)||Alasdhair Willis (m. 2003)|
|Relatives||Heather (maternal half-sister)
Beatrice (paternal half-sister)
I'm incredibly sad that my mother's not here to see my kids and that my kids don't get to know her. And she didn't meet my husband. That's one of the hardest things. I don't even know how to put that into words.
For me, singing is the most natural thing in the world. I've grown up with it and I know I've got that gift.
People think I'm strong, but actually I wanted to crawl away. I thought, I'm going to live in the country with my horse and I'll get a nine-to-five; I don't need this.
I'm obsessed with not chucking away food. I'm lucky enough to have a gardener, so we grow sweetcorn, tomatoes, beetroots, cabbages, pumpkins, lettuce. I'm trying to get into blanching it and freezing so I don't have to buy veg over the winter, but then you need loads of freezers, and that's not ideal.
Obviously, we live in a society where ageing is feared. But, to me, the alternative to getting old isn't that great. I've got friends much older than me and much younger, and I love that. It means you get to teach as well as learn.
I think I always dreamt of having a brand that really was represented globally, that had a voice – that had a clear voice and a clear vision that made women feel great about themselves. That really spoke to women on a personal level. And that women could wear.
I've got my organic veg patch and fruit; we're very garden-obsessed, my husband and I. He designed a garden for me for Christmas, so beautiful! Alasdhair's very good at the proportion and ground work, and I come in and do the planting and the color scheme.
I love that you can have the language between the two worlds of technology and fashion, because I don't think that many designers get to do that.
My fragrance is rose and amber, and I was just very specific. A lot of what I've done, at the stages I've done it, I've been a little naive, which brought with it a kind of charm. I did Stella a while ago. It's now a bit of a classic.
My mum and dad had creative jobs, but our family was a working family – so there wasn't an option of, 'Oh, when you're older, you're not going to have to work.'
I wanted the collection for Target to reinterpret all the must-haves of Stella McCartney for winter and to make my designs more accessible to a wider audience in Australia.
If you try to create something people enjoy, and it happens to be made in a responsible way, then that's when you can really strike an incredible balance.
It's not realistic to live in the country at this stage. I've got a business in London. I beat myself up about it all the time.
We have captured a luxury and richness with our fur-free fur, which is proof to the fashion industry that killing animals for the sake of fashion is unnecessary.
I think my differences were, and my differences still are, that I don't really approach fashion in a fashiony way.
The way my parents brought me up to see the world is still absolutely key to what I am about. The beliefs I was raised with – to respect animals and to be aware of nature, to understand that we share this planet with other creatures – have had a huge impact on me.
When I first started designing sportswear, I felt that women weren't represented in sports performance. I felt that men were dressed really well both technically and visually, and women were almost like an afterthought.
When I first started, it was a dirty word to say you made clothes for people to wear… I was a little ashamed of it. You didn't always feel you were this amazing creative force.
I can honestly say this industry hasn't made me neurotic about my looks, except maybe my weight. I hope my clothes kind of reflect that. They're meant to make you feel good.
What you wear in the evening is important for women because it's so personal, and it's so complicated to get it right. I like trousers for evening, especially when they have that width and attitude to them.
My mum had a massive influence on me, not just in what she wore and how she looked, but in her spirit. She was married to one of the most famous men in the world, and she didn't wear any makeup, ever. I mean, have you ever seen the wife of a man like that rock up with no makeup on? Because I haven't since.
My job is to make desirable, luxurious, beautiful clothing and accessories women want to buy. My first decision is always based on, 'Can I do this in a more sustainable way without sacrificing design?' If I can, then there is no reason not to.
I think the moment that I'm very proud of is building a business without using animals. And, hopefully, changing people's perception of how you can do luxury fashion.
I am a fashion designer. I'm not an environmentalist. When I get up in the morning, number one I'm a mother and a wife, and number two I design clothes. So the main thing I need to do is create, hopefully, exquisitely beautiful, desirable objects for my customer.
When I was about seven, I remember spending a lot of time in my parents' wardrobe trying on their bespoke suits.
It's more expensive for me to make my shoes. I don't use animal-based glues or fish-based glues. So that costs me more. And, you know, like anything in life – mass marketing of anything – mass manufacturing of anything costs less.
Mum was a big style icon for me: her natural sexiness and natural confidence.
Sustainability goes across everything I do with Adidas and everything I do with my own house, so the Olympic kit is no exception. It is incredibly environmental in the way that it is manufactured. For example, there's no leather; it's free from PVC. There's lots of woven materials, which means a lot less waste.
You have to be hopeful that people will be more educated in how they buy things, and hopefully more luxury brands will start to think that way on a longer-term basis.
What I really want, what I always really want, is baked potato and grilled cheese. But then I'd be really fat.
I don't know, maybe I'm overly paranoid that they're going to be spoiled, but I want to keep them going as kids for as long as I can. I want to keep them innocent and free.
You feel like everyone hates you if you've got a good life, now I feel maybe it's allowed because I've had my share of sadness.
My biggest surprises in my everyday job have to do with the challenges of trying to be slightly more responsible as a brand.
I am very aware of my family name. I'm very aware of the legacy that that kind of carries with it. And I think that I didn't want to lose any kind of hold of that. And I think once you're born into something that you're proud of and that you're aware of, you don't take it lightly.
More than anything I want to be fit so I don't get out of breath when I play football with the kids.
Very early, I thought I would go into music, but I was aware that it would bring a set of obstacles I didn't find particularly attractive. Also, I'm not a great performer! For a while, I thought I would do something in landscape gardening. But it was always fashion for me.
I'm a woman designing for women, and there are so many layers to that. On the one hand, it brings an effortlessness, but it also means that I think and overthink every detail, whether it's physical or mental or even – in some sense – spiritual.
We've all got to come together, and we've got to protect what's left of our ancient forests on this planet.
My job at the end of the day is to design timeless, desirable, beautiful products. It's not about just designing a bunch of organic jumpers. I have a balance within the brand. If you try to create something people enjoy, and it happens to be made in a responsible way, then that's when you can really strike an incredible balance.
I did always say I wanted to infiltrate from within. That was always my reasoning behind going into partnership with a luxury group that uses a lot of leather in their products.
When I say I don't do fur or leather, in my world it's a massive shock, but when it comes into the sporting arena, it goes without saying. It also influences what I do on the runway: I get really excited when I discover an environmentally-friendly print process that doesn't use water, and I'll try and mimic that in my ready-to-wear.
I like doing slightly masculine, Savile Row tailoring. A nice jacket. Wearable – it's almost a dirty word in fashion, wearable, but that's what I do.
I can debate for weeks whether a trouser should sit on the waist, or a centimetre below, or on the hip, whether it should have a zip or a button, because I find personally that a detail like that can have a massive impact on how I carry myself that day. If I wear a slouchy jean, that will affect my posture and my whole manner.
Pretending that the fashion industry isn't in part based on leather would be quite stupid of me, but at the same time, there is another way of doing things – even outside of leather. I don't use PVC either, for example, because it is harmful.
I did have quite a different upbringing to a lot of my peers. We all have a sort of code that we get, especially as Beatles kids. It's an unspoken sort of word of understanding. But I'm comfortable around a lot of different types of people.
I love a pocket. I'm about helping women look as good as possible on the least amount of effort. I want versatility and comfort. Clothes that can go from the office to anywhere. We're always trying on samples at work. If none of us would wear it, chances are no one else will.
Some days, I get overwhelmed and a bit breathless… I've probably cried at work, but I'm limited with my crying: I'm the boss; I'm not really allowed to cry at work.
I grew up on an organic farm in England. And I was a vegetarian from an early age – not just for health, not for the environment – just because I didn't believe in killing animals to eat them.
Growing up, I was always really inspired by Disney, and I had a great love of everything they created. My mum was huge fan, and she used to collect stills, and so they were all around the house, and we very much grew up on the early Disney films.
We try to make earth-friendly decisions whenever we can, as it's part of our brand DNA.
When you find the person that you settle down with, I guess you mellow. They are taming you, aren't they? Or you're taming them.
We always had our own vegetables growing up and now I'm doing it with my kids at our house in the country.
Strength on its own in a woman is quite abrasive and not terribly attractive all the time.
Everyone can do simple things to make a difference, and every little bit really does count.
Everyone can do simple things to make a difference, and every little bit really does count.
I've had people say to me, 'You'll never sell handbags. You don't work with leather, and leather is luxury.' To me, it's the complete opposite: leather is everywhere – it's so cheap a material; it's so mass produced. Over 50 million animals a year are killed just for fashion. For me, it doesn't have a luxury element to it.
I literally have meetings at eight o'clock in the morning, and I finish at nine o'clock at night. It sounds pathetic, but I don't even have time to go shopping.
Depending on the season, between 20 and 30 percent of my collections contain some sort of eco or sustainable element, whether it's a beautiful organic fabric or a natural dye. And obviously I don't use animal skins or fur of any kind.
It wasn't easy navigating publicity when I started, because I grew up with 'being famous,' and I'm just not into it, and I guess defensiveness gets read into that. And I didn't get an easy ride at the beginning.
The beliefs I was raised with – to respect animals and to be aware of nature, to understand that we share this planet with other creatures – have had a huge impact on me.
I was so aware of the stage clothes versus the everyday-life clothes, and the extremeness of the stage clothes that my parents had designed. Even coming across my dad's old Beatles suits from Savile Row and the history attached to them – the masculinity and simplicity compared to the '70s glitz and glamour of Wings.
It's immoral that people make money out of writing crap, but I try not to obsess about it. I don't want to spend my life being angry.
It's important for us as a family to go and sit in the woods sometimes.
As a British fashion designer, it is an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be creative director of Team GB as the hosting nation of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
From an early age, I was very interested in all things fashion… and the change from tomboy to ultrafeminine glamour in old films. There was a Doris Day film I loved: 'Calamity Jane.'
I was never drawn just into fashion. I was drawn into it because I am really interested in serving women and providing women with solutions, trying to figure out what we need and why we need that and why we wear stuff, how it makes us feel. That was always my starting point, you know.
I was brought up in a way that was based purely on the senses. Everything in my upbringing was a reaction to growing up on an organic farm or to the emotions of animal cruelty, as well as the visuals of my mum's and my father's art – he was also an art collector.
I was brought up to understand that we are all here on planet earth together.
Modern fake fur looks so much like real fur that the moment it leaves the atelier, no one can tell it's not the real thing. And I've struggled with that.
I never want to promote an ad that makes women feel bad about themselves, because when I was young, I never felt rich enough or fashionable enough or good enough. I felt talked down to by luxury fashion labels. There was a disconnect. They made me feel we weren't right for each other.
I guess my favourite Disney film was 'Snow White,' which has a really dark moment when the evil queen turns into a witch and makes the poison apple. It was terrifying in the same way 'Maleficent' is.
I think the fact that my parents weren't conventional – especially considering their position – had a big influence on the way that I conduct myself now in design and business. It had a huge impact on my wanting to do something a bit more than just designing a pretty dress and putting it on a runway and making it glamorous.
I used to get embarrassed about the fact I liked fashion. I still get a bit cringy.
It's one of my biggest internal struggles – the whole schooling system in London and the fact that my kids are going to a posh school. It freaks me out.
Ninety percent of the people who come to my stores have no idea I don't work with leather.
The majority of fragrances are designed by people who have no idea what the house does. But for me, it had to be honest. That's where it becomes personal.
Asia has always been a really exciting part of the world for me, personally. And it actually was the first part of the world that bought my brand, strangely enough.
I feel like a different person since my mum passed away, like I'm driving a ship with my husband alongside me and we're leading these four children into unknown waters.
When I was younger, I always assumed that when I grew up, I would be living in the country, and my kids would be going to a state school. But that's not how things have turned out. I can't see myself being able to leave London.
I didn't want to be thirtysomething and not know what I was going to do. I was quite afraid of that, there were quite a lot of aimless kids around, in that 'other' side of my life, who didn't really know what to do because they always had a bank balance to fall back on and they were quite lost.
Designing kids clothes is something personal to me because I'm a mother. So to be able to see my kids wearing something I've designed is very fulfilling. With the kids' collection, we really try to focus on great quality with an accessible price point in styles that appeal to both parents and kids.
I think the reality is that, for me, real fur is extraordinarily old fashioned. I think you look old. Even if you're 20, and you've got a real fur coat, you just look like an old, unaware, unconscious being on the planet. It's not relevant, it's not sexy, it's not fashionable, and it's not cool.
To work on the competition wear for the Olympics is kind of insane. As a fashion designer, you don't think to yourself, 'I'm going to get the opportunity to work with athletes at that level at the Olympic Games.' It really is such an incredible thing to have any kind of contact with as a designer.