Stella McCartney was the real winner of the royal wedding and it all started with making eco-fashion sexy.

Stella McCartney is talking about zeitgeisty topics like the state of fashion, the complications of raising a family, the rise of feminism and our collective impact on the environment. But all I can think about, embarrassingly, are her shoes. When she gets really animated in her speaking, she stretches her leg out, revealing a pair of red woven pumps.

The shoes, which have a deep V and are made in a leather-like, eco material she calls alter-nappa, are distracting. I wonder whether the pumps are in-store. And which parts of my wardrobe they would work best with and when I’d wear them (definitely shows, and big meetings). I should point out I’m not a woman especially prone to distraction. The shoes look rich and have an insouciant sense of sex and cool. In other words, they’re the opposite of what normally comes to mind when you hear the words ‘faux leather’.

The long-standing myth that the latter can’t be the former irks Stella no end.

‘It’s such an out-of-date way of thinking. Trust me, these shoes cost more to make than a pair of leather shoes,’ she says. ‘I had to train the technicians on the machines to use this material. People are being fed a lie [that leather and fur are more luxurious], and if they want to take it, fine. But I am here to tell you and show you otherwise.

‘The fashion industry has been using the same ten materials for the past 2OO to 3OO years – come on, guys: the food industry is changing faster than that. Everyone else is changing, but the fashion industry is doing the same old stuff, and getting away with it. They are getting away with murder.’

Roughly two decades ago, when Stella was a young Central Saint Martins graduate just starting out as a vegetarian designer with a no-leather/no-fur policy, most in the fashion world dismissed this kind of talk. Back then, planet-friendly clothing was anathema to fashion — the visually lacklustre stuff of hemp sack cloths and Birkenstocks. Today, not so much. As an entire generation of consumers and a growing list of brands begin to grasp the extent to which decades of unchecked consumption have damaged the planet, Stella’s sustainable practices suddenly look like a no-brainer.

Stella McCartney — the famous daughter-of turned famous-in-her-own-right designer, business owner, mother, wife and environmental activist — is enjoying a career high after 22 years in business. And that’s not because environmentalism has become fashionable. She’s just become the sole owner of her company, having bought out Kering’s 5O% share, and opened a new store, which is equal parts visual palimpsest (the four-floor space is decorated with impressive feats in recycling, such as ‘marble’ that is actually recycled foam) and technical innovation (the shop boasts the cleanest air in London, thanks to the cutting-edge filtration technology created by Airlabs).


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