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Stella McCartney on white privilege and the future of fashion

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“I wanted this collection to transport me to a basement with really, really loud music,” laughs fashion designer Stella McCartney over Zoom from her home in the Cotswolds. Despite having admittedly not ventured to a club in years, the designer is itching to hit the dance floor in disco-ready wares again.

The famously vegetarian and eco-conscious designer is speaking at a press conference to talk about her club kid-inspired autumn/winter collection, which was unveiled today on YouTube after being filmed at the Tate Modern. McCartney designed the 30-piece collection in lockdown and it’s brimming with glitter-adorned platform boots, lashings of sequins and a smorgasbord of clashing colours. It’s fashion that’s crying to be taken for a spin, the sort that implores you to go all out.

“I wanted this collection to feel like a fresh start, I wanted to be bold and to embrace the youthfulness of being unafraid,” she states. “I wanted fashion to take me away this season.”

Stella McCartney AW21

/ Stella McCartney

But you can’t talk about her latest collection without talking about these ‘unprecedented times.’ McCartney agrees that the pandemic has been testing. “It’s been a hard year to watch,” she reflects, “I’ve always had a lot of faith in humans, but as a woman, as a mother, as an employer, understanding my white privilege over the last year has taught me that we have so much more work to do. I’ve been concerned to see some of the politics.”

One can’t help but feel like she may be referring to a certain ex-POTUS, but for McCartney her entire purpose is political. An ardent vegan, the designer is pioneering a sustainable and fashion-forward space in the industry, having this week launched the world’s first ever garments made of Mylo, a patented form of mushroom leather.

Stella McCartney AW21

/ Stella McCartney

The issue closest to her heart is indeed the planet and she typically uses her platform to discuss sustainability. Indeed, this collection is made of 77 per cent sustainable material, with McCartney dubbing waste “the big enemy.” When probed on the future of fashion shows, while admitting that she misses her ‘community’, the designer admits: “Shows require so much of human’s resources and the planet’s resources. Seasons that we, the fashion industry, have created feel much less relevant now especially with global warming.”

There is light in the dark though. McCartney believes that “out of a lot of bad has come a lot of good, with a lot of lessons to be learned and work to be done.”

Where does fashion stand at the end of a pandemic that has claimed millions of lives? “There’s an element of rebellion that will happen, and frankly it’s well-deserved. You’ve got to come out of this feeling like you can wear when you want to wear! What has anybody got to lose?”

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