Stella McCartney joins the GCC

Stella McCartney | Green Carpet Challenge

First published 2011. Words by Livia Firth

I’ve had this under my (metaphorical) hat for a while now. As Colin was preparing to host Saturday’s star-studded Met Ball in New York with Anna Wintour, I met secretly with Stella McCartney to work on the ultimate eco-luxe gown.

Here at Green Carpet HQ we’ve always dreamed of working on a dress with Stella. Her sympathies and understanding of ethical fashion (and social and environmental issues), are well known. As she tells me, “First it’s important for me to say I’m not perfect and, that for me, it is about the principle. Sustainability is important, recycling is important. I think it is a mindset: everyone can do really simple things to make a difference and every little bit counts and there is still a long way to go… My first decision is always based on one question: can I do this in a more environmental way without sacrificing design? If I can; then there is no reason not to.

“I was brought up this way, so it came naturally to me. I was brought up on an organic farm in the countryside and the whole family was vegetarian, so it sort of came without thinking. But then, when it came to me having a career, starting a job and starting a brand in fashion, I guess it wouldn’t have sat comfortably with me to be hypocritical. That was the starting point. The seeds were sown in my personal life, then they came into my business life.”

She really gets that fashion’s impact is large and wants to do something about it – 20 to 30 per cent of her collection is broadly “sustainable at the moment. About fifty million animals die for the sake of fashion ever year, which is extremely wasteful and significantly contributes to climate change as farming uses a lot of water, energy and land, devastates forests and pollutes oceans. There are a lot of alternatives to using leather in accessories. We use PU made in Italy, and not PVC, but also velvets, cottons, linens, raffias, sustainable wood, recycled nylons… at the end of the day, it’s more creative.”

I can’t stress enough how difficult it can be to make something so luxe (dictated by the red carpet), when most sustainable fabrics are untreated and come in limited colours. As usual I requested “old Hollywood” and intense glamour. Stella wanted to do something quite different with a modern twist. I really loved that she was so thorough about the fabric: considering the processing and finishing of the fibre and the effect that it would have on the environment. She went for a polished sophisticated look without compromising on these principles.

The final piece was an all-in-one suit (or jumpsuit) and the top was embroidered with reclaimed vintage beads – completely re-stitched and embroidered by hand (the original piece from which they were salvaged was completely un-wearable), and the jumpsuit made from 100 per cent organic silk, cultivated and produced in Switzerland. The overlying and detachable skirt is Abaca fibre, or Manila hemp which grows spontaneously in sub-equatorial regions with very little water. I accessorised with a trio of Calleja pink diamond and white gold bracelets from accredited Australian mines (as I wore to last year’s Oscars) and vintage emerald drop earrings from Lorraine Schwartz. My bag and shoes: By Bruno Frissoni of Roger Vivier reclaimed and vintage fabric.

I feel we’re just getting into gear with the Green Carpet Challenge and I think Stella is on a similar journey. “We have just started working with two cooperatives based in Laos and Thailand that grow their own silkworms using organic local mulberry leaves to feed them. They will hand-spin and hand-weave to achieve 100 per cent silk fabric with better results,” she tells me. She’s also working with a fair trade wool cooperative in Uruguay – hoping to use them in the next pre-collection and is testing a water-less dying process for organic cotton in Turkey. She continues to push the boundaries.

And what a night the Met Ball was! My date was Richard Buckley, (Mr Tom Ford), as Colin and Stella were on meeting and greeting duties for two hours. I sat at Anna Wintour’s table next to the fabulous Mick Jagger – I have a new crush! Highlight of the night: hanging out with Stella, Rhianna, Lauren Hutton and Yoko. Was this a dream? Very possibly. A trio of Calleja pink diamond and white gold bracelets from accredited Australian mines (as I wore to last year’s Oscars) and vintage emerald drop earrings from Lorraine Schwartz.

My bag and shoes: By Bruno Frissoni of Roger Vivier using reclaimed and vintage fabric.