Stella McCartney’s Paris show aims to set trend for subtle sustainability

Fashion designs featuring regenerative ‘shirt to dirt’ cotton and leather alternatives hit catwalk outside Pompidou Centre

Stella McCartney’s catwalk show, held in the public square in front of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, was her most sustainable yet, but she hoped nobody would notice.

“If I’m doing my job right, you shouldn’t see any of the sustainability,” the designer said backstage after the show. “It should just look like the most luxurious, glamorous show. I don’t want it to look like sustainable fashion – I want it to look sexy and effortless and easy.”

There is one exception to McCartney’s rule. In the front row next to her father, Paul, was Bernard Arnault, the chairman and chief executive of the LVMH luxury goods company and the third richest man in the world. McCartney hopes Arnault will note that the elegant baguette-shaped S-Wave “leather” shoulder bags were made from a grape-based alternative to leather, that this season’s take on the hit Frayme bag with its oversized chain strap was made from mycelium, the root-like structure of fungi, and that the crystals on the model Bella Hadid’s mesh catsuit were solvent-free.

“I have this incredible seat at the table, and I want to use that position to change fashion from the inside,” said McCartney, who gained a role as special adviser on sustainability to Arnault when LVMH took a minority stake in her company three years ago. “Mr Arnault is not stupid. While he is watching my show, looking at all these non-leather shoes, non-leather bags, non-leather jackets, he can compare what he’s looking at with the other brands. He can see that there is no sacrifice visually, or in make, or in quality, in what I’m doing.”

McCartney is trying to convince Arnault that the grape skins from LVMH vineyards – which encompass 13 estates across four continents – could become the raw material for more leather-alternative fashion. “I want to infiltrate from within. I hope that’s possible.”

Regenerative cotton also made its catwalk debut, the result of a three-year pilot project in Turkey, which adopts regenerative agriculture methodology for a cotton production process that captures carbon within the soil. Dubbed “dirt to shirt” in an attempt to mirror the success of the “farm to table” movement in food, regenerative agriculture is seen as a key frontier in the drive for sustainability in fashion, with further projects backed by Levi Strauss and Ralph Lauren.

The outdoor setting for the show, which drew a large crowd, was a first for McCartney. “I wanted anyone who wanted to come and see the show to be able to. My clothes are very wearable and approachable – the exclusivity of the fashion industry is not my vibe. And outdoors is my thing – I’m in nature, in the elements, as much as I can be.”

The primary colours of the Paris landmark were echoed in an extra bright colour palette. Yellow, which has made an unusually strong showing during this month of fashion shows, was dubbed “limoncello” in fluid asymmetric dresses and trouser suits worn over crystal bras.


Jess Cartner-Morley in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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