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On Thursday evening, Feb. 2, the stars came out to toast Stella McCartney’s latest Adidas collection.
Tallulah and Scout Willis (wearing glittery, spangled dresses) took a spin around the roller skating rink below a stage. Cara Delevingne, Anya Taylor-Joy and Shailene Woodley danced, while performers included Beth Ditto, Minke, Muna and Koffee. Also in the crowd at Henson Recording Studios were the sustainability advocate‘s father Paul McCartney (who had a long chat with Leonardo DiCaprio), Ringo Starr, Orlando Bloom, Beck, Baz Luhrmann, Sonic Youth frontwoman Kim Gordon, Kate Hudson (all smiles, planting a kiss on Liv Tyler’s cheek), James Marsden, Foo Fighter’s Dave Grohl, Madelyn Cline, Noah Cyrus, Miguel, Kiernan Shipka, Pauline Chalamet, Demi Lovato and members of Måneskin. Vegan burgers, margherita pizzas and Paul’s Margarita (with fresh orange and lime juices) were on the menu.
The Adidas by Stella McCartney spring-summer 2023 Icons collection rolls out on Feb. 16 and includes a new gender-neutral Sportswear Run Shoe made partially from natural and renewable materials. The LA Roller Girls modeled the looks, including the Icons and TrueNature collections.
Before the soiree, McCartney sat down with The Hollywood Reporter at the Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills Hotel to talk about sustainability, the upcoming coronation of King Charles III and more.
What are your thoughts about the transition of power, with King Charles III’s coronation coming up and will you be involved?
You’ve got to remember, I’ve grown up with my father being quite well known, and with this interviewing, so I’m quite good at not giving anything away! I will be at Windsor Castle next week, so I’m excited about that. I’m getting my CBE. [the highest rank, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for championing sustainability in fashion]. I’ve got quite a few letters after my name now. I work very closely with King Charles and his amazing team of people. He’s been incredible at supporting the environment for so long. I’m a big fan of what they’re doing; he’s bringing great awareness.
Your first Adidas collection debuted in 2005, almost 20 years ago. What is Adidas’ commitment to sustainability?
They’re the leaders in sportswear on sustainability, without a doubt. It’s something they care very much about. When we started out, I learned about PVC through my collaboration with them. We have only recycled nylons, so we use no virgin plastics. I would say we are definitely the icing on the cake of sustainability within the brand. There’s such a void between what I’m doing in my ready-to-wear brand and what they’re doing in their sports brand, and so the sweet spot is really interesting of what we can do together. We work really hard to make it extremely technical. The actual performance and technology is something we’re very proud of.
What are some of the biggest challenges in designing activewear?
One of my big challenges, a long time ago now, was working on the 2012 Olympics. I was the first designer with a sportswear brand to ever do a female podium look. Those women got all their gold medals and they were wearing the men’s suits! It is really just keeping the focus on sustainability, which is a challenge when you get to that kind of scale. Obviously, you have to be really vigilant on where your supply chain is coming from. Also, just to keep pushing for women’s rights, almost, in the sports industry.
It was 2020 that you introduced maternity looks to the Adidas collab and that your Stella McCartney label officially added the unisex line, right?
Yes, we did a double mastectomy sports bra in 2015, which is something I’m super proud of. I don’t think anyone’s done that before. And then the maternity. I worked out throughout all of my pregnancies. A lot of it is being a champion of women, as a female designer. There’s not enough of us. We’ve gone a lot more into unisex just because, I mean, I’m wearing all men’s clothes today. [Points at her blazer]. We’ve been doing that forever, really.
Can you talk to some of the innovative sustainable textiles you’ve been working on, like the regenerative cotton for pre-fall 2023, and your efforts as a founding investor in the new Collab SOS venture capital fund that backs biomaterials companies?
We’ve done a pilot in Turkey and got the regenerative cotton on the runway this season — I think we’re the only people to have it on the runway so far. We have the AlgiKnit, yarn made from algae, which is an amazing project, so we’re trying to R&D that at Stella. A lot of people investing in sustainability don’t have a product they need to source in a better way. But I’m in a very unique place, where I’m able to really test and design using different materials, like the mycelium [fungi]. It took such a long time to get the Mylo leather into a position where it could fold and not crack. When I can incubate a material and get it to a quality where I can use it as a luxury fashion house, then I can take it to my business partner, Mr. [Bernard] Arnault, and truly put it into production to swap out an existing old-fashioned business with, hopefully, the future of fashion. It’s about creating awareness and also actually changing a supply chain.
The reason I wanted to start the fund with my colleagues was to have a meaningful impact on the industry. The SOS fund is sustainable solutions, and I feel that’s more and more my job than actually creating a fabulous jumpsuit. I’ve been doing this my entire career, and we’ve kind of been the pilot program for the industry, and there are no real incentives, financially. In fact, we’re kind of penalized for what we do. We have a vegan leather that basically takes the waste of the wine industry and uses the skins from the grapes and we make all of these incredible faux leathers. But when we bring them into America, we get hit with a 30 percent taxation! It’s shocking. I’ve been telling people that for 20 years and it’s still the case. I said to my team the other day, “Let me know how much money we’ve lost as a business.” Because how do you incentivize young businesses or smaller businesses to actually work in this way? You’re just completely demoralized in doing the right thing. My big hopeful impact before I leave Planet Earth is to try and bring young, exciting, new business models that use technology or a cleaner way of working into many industries.
Your pre-fall collection set a house record, being 94 percent sustainable. How does that compare to other brands and what will it take to get to 100 percent?
One hundred is not impossible. For me, it’s the only way. It’s the thing that I’m trying to get to. I don’t think any other brand in the world would even publish the numbers, because they wouldn’t even think to measure. It costs us not only money, but also time, to figure out that number. That’s not a small feat. You’ve got to go back to every single transparent supply chain and do the math. That’s not easy. And then you’ve got to look at what gets into the show, what was on the runway, and look at that number. I’m so proud of my company. It’s not me; it’s my team’s united desire to truly make a meaningful change in the industry.
What areas of sustainability are the most challenging in order to hit that 100?
Some fabrics just don’t exist right now. Some things you can’t source. You’re very limited creatively. Sequins, for example, are all PVC so they have petroleum in them. Every sequin that you see in the world is plastic. We have a non-PVC rule, so we cut off our nose to spite our face. And so then I’ve got ten sequins I can use in five colors. But I’m a plant-based brand. We don’t have any leather or any glue. Even my bag here has aluminum chains, so they can be recycled, because metals aren’t so friendly. This is a faux leather, so I have two colorways, because they just don’t have the scale, the methods. If you want to do natural dyes and use vegetable oil coating, it is super complex. At the end of the day, at Stella McCartney, we are like the first people going to the moon in fashion.
The sustainable custom gown you made for Adele to wear at her residency in Vegas was a beautiful example.
We had lead-free crystals on that and the viscose is forest-friendly. Two hundred million trees are cut down in a year just for rayon. And they’re not replanted, which is crazy. When I ask people in my industry, “Do you know what rayon is made of?” They’re like, “Plastic?” Nobody knows, which is nobody’s fault. At Stella we ask the questions and we find the solutions. We took three years of our time, and didn’t get any funding, to go and find a sustainable forest in Sweden, which cut down but replanted the trees, to create the viscose used on Adele’s dress.
Is there anyone on your list that you would love to dress?
Well, it used to be the Queen, but she’s left the building. I think I’m lucky. I’ve dressed nearly everyone I would want to dress. I dressed Michelle Obama in a jumpsuit just the other day.
If you could go back in time?
There’s plenty of people I’d love to have dressed. Marilyn Monroe. I wouldn’t have minded slipping a little something on her.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
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