LONDON — “I’ll be here for the next four days, so feel free to drop in anytime,” said Stella McCartney from a Zoom screen at the end of her virtual post-show chat on Thursday. “It’ll be just like a sit-in.”
While she may have been flexing that British sense of humor, McCartney’s Q&A session, delivered from the confines of her London studio, had the feel of a green rally.
The designer called for less waste in the industry, better sourcing and manufacturing, the need for investment in new technology and rewards for sustainably minded businesses — and consumers.
Surrounded by mood boards and pictures from her spring 2021 collection, which was presented as a short film shot on the art-filled grounds of Houghton Hall in Norfolk, England, McCartney also pointed out some of her recent green accomplishments.
They included an “A to Z Manifesto,” which she said would act like “a checklist” for responsible behavior by her brand. The 26 letters of the alphabet stand for words and phrases she wants the brand to live by, such as “accountable,” “conscious,” “zero waste” and “humor.”
She also singled out items including a pair of flip-flops from the spring collection, with soles part-made from recycled waste; the shiny black flats she was wearing with transparent, non-PVC panels on the sides; the minidresses made from old lace samples that featured in the show; her jersey and denim pieces, which are all made from 100 percent organic cotton, and her new hybrid swimsuit-support lingerie, which are 99 percent zero-waste products.
“We are one of the most harmful industries, but we are very capable of making significant changes quite quickly. And we should be investing in tomorrow. There are incredible opportunities out there.” she said of the fashion industry.
“I don’t want to buy new fabrics, I want to do more with less, to make limited-edition collections,” out of leftover fabric and clothing. “At Stella McCartney, we don’t burn or bury our excess clothing like so many other companies do.”
She said governments should also draw up laws the prevent businesses from working in ways that harm the environment. “Our industry needs to be told what they are not allowed to do, and they should be rewarded for certain practices that benefit the environment. And consumers should be rewarded for buying better.”
She also called on fellow labels to draw up an EP&L, or environmental profit-and-loss account, in order to measure their impact on, and contribution to, the Earth. As reported, McCartney has just completed her latest EP&L, which includes a series of strategies aimed at regenerating farmland.
Persistence, she added, pays off.
She pointed to the black flats she was wearing, saying it took the company years to find a clear material that was not petroleum-based, but was still “stable enough” to use as a footwear component.
She also used the flip-flop sole as an example of how to make progressive changes. “This year 50 percent of the flip-flop sole is made from waste, but next year it might be 60 percent, and the following one, 70 percent.”
She said she felt “energized” by her time in lockdown, and that the long period of quarantine in the U.K. and elsewhere had drawn everyone’s attention back to the environment.
People were able to hear birds, she said, rather than the noise of traffic. “It was a moment of awakening, and the numbers and statistics gathered during these months will be used in years to come.”
McCartney didn’t bang her green drum the entire time.
She reminded her audience that the H in her new alphabet stood for “humor,” and she delivered generous helpings of it.
Asked whether women will ever swap their comfortable “lockdown” wardrobes for more glamorous, seductive fare, McCartney said she certainly hoped so.
“There has to be optimism! I was just saying to the team, ‘Where’s the celebration collection?’ I designed those lace dresses to be worn out of the frickin’ bedroom.”