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Stella McCartney SPRING 2021 READY-TO-WEAR

If the subject of sustainability has traditionally lacked sex appeal, Stella McCartney is here to spice things up. Fashion’s most passionate environmentalist spent the lockdown period working on an “A-to-Z manifesto” for the sustainable future of her brand, reinforcing every idea she’s ever believed in: A for “accountable,” O for “organic,” V for “vegan,” and so on. Rather well-connected, she asked artist pals, from Cindy Sherman to Jeff Koons and George Kondo, to illustrate the different entries, which are being published on her Instagram.

“There’s so much greenwashing going around,” McCartney said in a video conference, referring to other fashion brands, “and there’s so much confusion going on. I barely know what the word sustainable means anymore. So it’s to give a level of clarity, really.” While the A-to-Z helped to make some heavy topics more digestible, it was her saucy collection that did the job of selling her enduring message of sustainability. It was presented in a short film captured around the gardens of Houghton Hall in Norfolk, decorated dramatically in contemporary sculpture.

There, to a frenzied soundtrack, McCartney’s post-confinement women stomped ferociously around Full Moon Circle, an imposing planetary Richard Long work that resembles austere moonstone. The spectacle evoked images of paganism, like some Mother Nature–worshipping séance for our post-pandemic environmental awakening. If witchcraft has historically been loaded with an almighty sense of female-gaze sexuality, McCartney’s collection came full circle.

The ribs of a knit top wrapped erotically around the bust like seashells, a theme echoed in prints and bags. Hourglass suiting felt rigorous in its curvaceous lines, with figure-augmenting cutting, like a jaunty, stiffly ruffled miniskirt accompanied by a saharienne jacket. Skimpy lace-insert lingerie dresses were roughly patchworked together, seams bursting out of their construction. “I think it’s important to invest more in timeless materials, but at the same time you can really inject freshness. It shouldn’t be dull,” McCartney said, referring to those dresses—“completely recycled” from overstock—as an example of the “T for ‘timeless,’” which is part of her sustainability strategy.

Whether a dress like that can ever be timeless is, perhaps, in the wardrobe of the beholder. But the notion of trendlessness is a thought-provoking one. In seasons to come, it will be interesting to see if McCartney and the increasingly eco-conscious post-pandemic industry as a whole will implement those ideas on a bigger level—next to the sustainable measures her brand pioneers so well.


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