Stella McCartney Has Some Strong Words For The Beauty Industry

There are high-end brands that strive for the ultimate in luxury, performance, and style, and there are those that offer the ethically-minded, strictly-vegan products many demand. Then, in a league of its own, there is Stella McCartney. She's the patron saint of feel-good designer clothing — she doesn't use fur, leather, feathers, or any other animal product — and many other big-name designers are following her lead after seeing that cruelty-free doesn't have to be a compromise at all.

Last night, she debuted her Fall 2018 collection in Hollywood to a packed house of celebrities. There were special performances (ever heard of Paul McCartney?), and the models mingled with attendees versus walking a traditional runway. It was also a coming-out party of sorts for the designer's new fragrance Stella Peony, a complex floral with amber notes that give the scent a luxe, rich, and sultry feeling. Officially released this month, it's a spinoff of the first scent she briefly launched years ago, but the makeover isn't just a new note or bottle, it's a secret eco overhaul, too.

We sat down with McCartney to talk about the new scent, the challenges her brand's eco ethos presented in terms of beauty formulations, and her message for the industry during a pivotal time in history for women and the environment. She doesn't hold back — and we're here for it.

On Boycotting China
“There was a movement while I was young for cruelty-free beauty products and [all the brands] got on board. There is an assumption that those people are still doing it, but none of them are if they're selling into China [where animal testing is required]. Nobody seems to be talking about or challenging it while all these brands are literally getting away with murder and trying to act like they're in the beauty business — I don't find anything beautiful about testing on animals. We don't sell into China and I hope the world will head that way.”

On Translating Her Commitment To Ethical Choices To Stella Peony

“The starting point for [the original scent] was always asking the hard questions, so relaunching it now has given me a fresh opportunity to see how far we've come in fragrance. Mimicking [scents] is something that's come about in recent years that's increased sustainability, which is something I would normally be opposed to because I’d want all organic and natural ingredients, but that can be more harmful to the environment because mimicking fragrances uses no land or water. I insist on recyclable outer packing and that's quite unheard of — the margins don't allow for that, so we pushed back — and foil printing, for example, is much more high shine, but it's more environmentally unfriendly. Sometimes you compromise, but it's for the right cause. “

"All these brands are literally getting away with murder and trying to act like they're in the beauty business..."
Stella McCartney

On Making Women Feel Good
"My whole thing from day one has been to make women feel more empowered and more comfortable in their own skin. I think fashion in general, at a certain level, can make you feel inadequate, and beauty can make you feel worse about yourself. That's a massive challenge we have as women."

On Fashion Designers' Changing Roles
"A lot of designers don't feel comfortable talking out against much and, as a whole, they're not hugely controversial creatures on anything very important — it's normally a controversy over a hemline or the color of the season. [But] fashion, film, and the arts have all sort of become one, so now we're in an arena where designers have more confidence and have something to say — it's definitely changing."

On Being More Eco-Friendly — But Not Looking It
"At the end of the day, beauty is not punishment. I wouldn't ever want anyone who didn't know anything about me to walk into the room and see the perfume bottles and go, 'Oh god, it's like a funky organic oatmeal thing...' First and foremost, I trained as a fashion designer, so I don't want anyone to know things aren't leather or something isn't real fur, I don't want anyone to know that something is organic, because why should you know? That's how I approach beauty."

On The Issues All Of Us Should Care About
"I'm trying to champion for people to be informed. I'm working on a cause now with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a wonderful foundation on circular economy, because the fashion industry is the second most harmful industry on the planet. Every single second, the equivalent of a truck full of clothing is either landfilled or burned; fast fashion is something we all have to take accountability for. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than sea life. We can make conscience consumer decisions, we can buy responsibly, and we can ask questions. If we push and challenge and question, we'll get better stuff."

Stella McCartney Stella Peony, $70, available at Sephora.

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