The designers ethical stance made her a style outsider but now the industry is finally catching up. Ahead of a new V&A show, she talks about reclaiming her name, the joy of nature and the trouble with fast fashion
Stella McCartney is a designer, a businesswoman and an environmental activist, but of the three, she says, fashion will always come first. It has to, you see. Because the only way for me to start the conversation I want to start is by making a product that you want to buy and that you are going to spend your hard-earned money on. If the product is rubbish, then there is no conversation to be had. If I dont have a successful business, then Im an environmentalist who happens to be Paul McCartneys daughter, and that is a conversation which lasts about three seconds. No one is going to come back for more of that chat.
Last month, McCartney became one of the most powerful independent voices in fashion. She bought out the 50% share of her company that had been owned by the luxury giant Kering to become sole owner, a move she describes as a crucial patrimonial decision. An estimate by a Citigroup analyst put the labels sales at around 260m (226m) last year, a figure that, when combined with a lucrative Adidas partnership, makes Stella McCartney a significant brand, but still a minnow compared with Kerings flagship names, Gucci and Saint Laurent. Instead of being a minor Kering label, Stella McCartney is now a proud indie. When you consider that, for a new generation of millennial consumers, the Beatles are receding from pop culture into the history books, the move means that Stella, at 46, has assumed control not only over the destiny of her brand, but over what the name McCartney stands for in the 21st century. Owning my name changes my mindset, she says. Its about legacy. My grandfather [Lee Eastman]s motto was staying power, and Ive always been about the long-term.