Stella McCartney has launched a sustainability manifesto in collaboration with artists including Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha and Cindy Sherman.
Peter Blake, Olafur Eliasson, Alex Israel, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Joana Vasconcelos, Chantal Joffe and Rashid Johnson also took part in the project, which takes the form of an A-Z and seeks, in part, to drill down on the meaning of certain terms – from A for accountable to Z for zero waste – in an age of mass greenwashing.
For timelesness, William Eggleston photographed the back of a street sign at night in the shape of the letter T. For repurpose, US artist Taryn Simon found an R-shaped bird poo.
Conceived in lockdown, the A-Z is also an attempt to represent the pillars of Stella McCartney’s business which, she said, will inform all of the company’s future decisions. McCartney presented her collection with the fashion industry in flux, with sales down 15.9% compared with pre-pandemic levels.
The crisis, said McCartney, at a virtual press conference after her digital spring/summer 21 show, “has led to me asking personal questions, such as ‘why do I do what I do?’ and ‘why do women to come to us?’ We have always been conscious that we had a deeper meaning than creativity alone – that we wanted to change the industry for the better.” After some reflection, “we felt really energised and invigorated and found the fire to come back fighting”.
“I barely even know what the word sustainable means any more,” she added, with confusion and greenwashing rife in the industry. For the fashion industry to be sustainable, she said, “it has to come from a place of honesty, because it’s not easy to work this way, and give the consumer honest information and be completely transparent. It can’t just be for marketing and because the youth of tomorrow will demand it.”
It came at the end of a strange, socially distanced fashion month in which designers’ attempts to predict what the world will be wearing in six months’ time ranged from celebratory party wear to eerie PPE-inspired visors.
McCartney’s take was upbeat. Models were filmed walking around the grounds of Houghton House, in Norfolk, wearing flowing, hot pink dresses, huge hammered brass earrings and thick-soled flip flops which, she said, were made of 50% waste materials. There were Zoom-friendly Anne Boleyn-style necklines on jumpsuits and dresses and innovations including “stellawear”, a 99% zero waste shapewear underlayer which also serves as a swimming costume.
With social distancing now a design consideration, “everyone’s like, ‘don’t do eveningwear’,” said McCartney, “but for me I definitely think there has to be optimism, we’ve still gotta get dressed up, we’ve gotta come out of this not wearing sweatpants. And we will come out of this.”