Stella McCartney: "Fashion Is Getting Away With Murder"

Stella McCartney - Kering Talk At London College  - Getty - H - 2016
Dave Benett/Getty Images for Kering

The British designer takes the industry to task, including parent company Kering.

Stella McCartney is the luxury industry’s most vocal advocate for animal and environmental welfare. Her products are entirely vegetarian. They’re increasingly sustainable, too, thanks to McCartney’s insistence on using materials such as organic cotton and recycled cashmere. And she thinks it’s time other companies followed suit.

“Fashion really is getting away with murder,” said McCartney on Monday night, speaking to a crowd at the London College of Fashion at a sustainability-themed talk hosted by her label’s parent company, Kering.

Among the guests were Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault, who was seated alongside his wife, Salma Hayek, as well as McCartney’s husband, Alasdair Willis, and ’60s-era supermodel Twiggy. “There needs to be more systems in place, more vigorous testing, and as a customer you can do that, you can challenge the people who are making your fashion,” McCartney said.

Her advice? “Be mindful of your consumption. I think the one thing we’ve forgotten is that we make the choices. I think it’s really important to know what you’re consuming, to ask questions, to reduce your meat intake, to look at how you’re living your life and how that has an impact on the environment. Ask questions, ask big corporations why they are using materials like PVC, and why did that watch cost three pounds, what the hell happened from A to Z there?”

When McCartney first launched her label 15 years ago, she said she was “ridiculed” for banning leather and fur from her collections. “I was told definitely I would not have a business, I wouldn’t have an accessories business…by people I worked with, that I looked up to,” the 45-year-old designer recalled. But it was a bet that paid off: Sales have been rising in the “double digits…for a while now,”  and consumers are becoming more conscious of the impact their purchases have. “Fashion is one of the most harmful industries on the planet, and I think people are a little more aware of that now,” she said. 

Awareness is one thing; change is another. While McCartney said she “do[esn’t] want to preach,” she wasn’t afraid to call out her peers for failing to get on board — including her label’s parent company. “I’m sure [Kering] will give up python farms very soon,” she said wishfully. She was especially adamant that fashion companies trade out real fur for faux: “You really can’t tell the difference. There’s no reason to kill 15 million innocent creatures.”

Central Saint Martins students then took to the microphone and asked McCartney if she would ever serve as the creative director of a house that used leather and fur. Her answer was an emphatic no. She said that a few fashion houses have approached her, “even recently.”