Stella McCartney: The hero of sustainable fashion

On the 14th November Stella McCartney joined journalist Lucy Siegle  for the third annual Kering talk on sustainable fashion. As a designer, McCartney continues to set the pace on how to create and innovate in the fashion industry without comprising ethical beliefs. Her most recent womenswear and menswear lines (launched the week before) stand at being 53% and 45% sustainable. So, if anyone has the right to lecture us all on sustainable fashion, it’s Stella.

McCartney began the talk reflecting on her past. She recalled how, initially, she was ridiculed for wanting to start a brand that sustainably sourced its materials; she was told that this wasn’t a viable business. But with fashion being one of the most environmentally-harmful industries, and with an ever-increasing modern consciousness of our environmental impact – be it via what we eat or how we choose to travel – McCartney questioned why fashion was not as much a part of this conversation.

McCartney’s most recent venture is a reflection of this conversation. Over the past two years she has been focussing on changing the way her brand sources one of its most-used materials: viscose. “We didn’t really know the impact of viscose and that it was tree pulp and that it was a big contributor to deforestation.” “120 million trees are cut down a year for viscose”, she explained, “As soon as we knew that we didn’t want to be a part of it.” The brand now works with NGO Canopy to ensure that all viscose production meets strict sustainability standards, ensuring the forest and its habitats are not irreversibly destroyed.

Sustainable fashion is still in its early stages though, with a need to prioritise. “The biggest sustainable thing we do is not use leather. Over a billion animals a year are killed just for their leather and 50 million for their fur”, not to mention additional impacts that the tanning process and agricultural deforestation have.

Proof then that being ethical can be profitable, Stella McCartney is definitely heading in the right direction. Let’s just hope she doesn’t have to walk it alone.

Beth Marchant

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