Stella McCartney on Her Fashion Philosophy: "My Job Is to Make Women Feel Sensual" (Q&A)
Ahead of her first-ever L.A. show, the industry-favorite British designer (and Paul’s daughter) talks to THR about her unique brand (she sources her own "vegan leather") and red-carpet pitfalls: "Just the word eveningwear sounds old."
With 2015 the Year of the Squad, one could look at Stella McCartney's Hollywood friendships as pure show. But the 44-year-old designer and daughter of rock royalty is as nonchalant as her aesthetic, wearing her own understated jackets and pants as a working mom of four kids with her husband of 13 years, British publisher Alasdhair Willis. Her long-term, loyal friendships with Kate Hudson, Naomi Watts, Liv Tyler, Kate Moss and Rihanna are not plastered on Instagram. "Stella is a real girlfriend; she's not competitive in the girl area," her friend and fellow designer Tom Ford, who's known her for 15 years, has said. Gwyneth Paltrow has vouched, "When one of your best friends is a very successful artist and you love and admire her work, you want to support it at all costs." Now the British fashion force, an avowed vegetarian (she's a fan of West Hollywood vegan spot Crossroads) who uses no leather or fur in her designs (often embraced by Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway and other vegan celebs), will be building on the trend started by Ford with his first L.A. show last February. McCartney is revealing her pre-fall collection — which usually shows in New York — at a yet-to-be-revealed Hollywood location, sure to be packed with her A-list supporters, on Jan. 12.
Why show pre-fall 2016 in Hollywood now?
I have visited L.A. many, many times and wanted to celebrate its music culture with our autumn collection. I always leave L.A. with a sense that there is so much happening in the creative arts now. It's not often a city has been established for one industry and has the opportunity to change into something more. By bringing the Stella McCartney house there, we are exploring another side of the city. There is an open-minded approach L.A. has, a lifestyle of freedom and happiness, which really reflects our house.
You've had great red-carpet moments on Charlize Theron, Halle Berry … Which stand out?
You have to be careful when you work with celebrities, to be open to their needs, responding to colors they feel comfortable in, while being sympathetic to areas they don't feel comfortable with. My job is to make women feel comfortable, effortless, happy, sensual. That is critical, whether it be daywear, eveningwear, lingerie, sportswear. When I am working on a red-carpet dress, there is no difference.
Do you think the red carpet has too much influence on fashion?
I think that the most important part of a red-carpet dress is to have an honest approach and take that to the next level. The glamour, aspiration, craftsmanship and statement should be the same you make with your daily wardrobe, your cocktail wardrobe or even your gym wardrobe. That to me is being honest to yourself and not trying to pretend to be something that you are not. Often times when women wear eveningwear, the dress starts to wear them and it comes across as overly complicated, trying too hard and ultimately the result looks uncomfortable, and I don't think that is the right emotion or message. On these red-carpet occasions, the dress should be more the icing on the cake. It's important to find the right way of translating your personality into eveningwear, and to keep it youthful — just the word eveningwear sounds old. So I try to really capture a sense of youth and innocence, simplicity.
Many entertainment execs wear your jackets and pants. What's special about your tailoring?
Tailoring is really part of the DNA of our brand. I was hugely influenced by my mum [Linda McCartney] and dad's Savile Row suits. I then studied bespoke tailoring, so it's something I have a great passion for. I think everybody likes to feel more structured, a little bit more controlled and stronger, and a great-fitting jacket can give you that.
How do you feel about being a vegan pioneer in fashion?
It's the most game-changing thing we've done in the industry. I was told I'd never have an accessory business because people associate leather with luxury. We are the only luxury house providing this kind of product and proving it is doable [McCartney sources her own non-PVC "vegan leather"]. This is what drives me, challenges me and defines the modernity of my brand.
This story first appeared in the Jan. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.