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There was a dancing finale at Stella McCartney, an arm-waving conga followed by a West Side Story-style dance-off, where both sides were in fact pleather-wearing vegetarians who loved each other dearly. It had been choreographed in two hours the night before the show, and the models were surprisingly co-ordinated. It was a great start to the week.
The 45-year-old designer has reasons to be cheerful. The house, which has always championed best ecological practice — no fur, no leather, organic cottons where possible, efficient waste management and a limit on greenhouse gas emissions — has just released a first global environmental profit-and-loss account for 2015.
“Overall environmental impact of materials used reduced by 35 per cent in last three years, whilst enjoying best business performance of the brand since its launch,” read the statement. “Our 2015 EP&L impact of €5.5m represents a 7 per cent growth.”
McCartney’s eco-crusade has earned her much flak in the past. But, in recent years, her message has become increasingly mainstream and she is, quite rightly, riding that wave.
The energy reductions had been reflected in her smaller SS17 collection. She had invited fewer people to make the space more intimate. “I wanted to make a connection with the audience,” she explained backstage. It was also a show of affection in a post-Brexit world. “We’re a British company based in London,” she continued. “We wanted to tell the world we love them.” She might have added: “and we’re open for business.” But she didn’t.
The collection had a similarly clubbable, sororal, we’re-all-in-this-together kind of appeal; there were loose paper-bag trousers and three-quarter-length skirts in earthy colours and faux suede, sculpted tracksuits in indigo with rounded shoulders and a gathered seam around the inside leg, shown alongside slogan knits and spotty shirting. The models wore boxy purse belts and slung hessian blanket capes over their shoulders. The looks were free and easy: Neneh Cherry played on the soundtrack as we took our seats and the show had that same “Buffalo Stance” and swagger about it.
Like Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino, McCartney is interested in the emotional connect. In a luxury landscape in which brands are being challenged, they need to reach out with more than clothes and invite them to be part of that narrative. McCartney has cornered the market in feel-good appeal: a luxury brand in which a retail indulgence can be written off as a good deed. “Thanks girls,” read a print emblazoned on a long white knit dress, proclaiming also: “love”, “no leather” and “no fur”. It was an open invitation. And while Stella’s squad contains a spectrum of colours, the only one that mattered here was green.