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  • Michael d'Estries

Stella McCartney Urges World Leaders to Push Fashion In a Sustainable Direction

The designer made a plea at the G7 summit for increased policies to promote climate-friendly trends in the fashion industry.

Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

Calling it “one of the most polluting [industries] in the world,” Stella McCartney urged world leaders attending the G7 summit last week to consider new policies that would encourage the adoption of sustainable practices in the fashion industry.

“My goal is to drive change, encourage investments and create lasting difference through incentives supporting the next generation,” McCartney said. “I hope the G7 Summit will translate our message into policies bringing us closer to creating a cruelty-free society that is kinder to all creatures, Mother Earth and each other.”

McCartney, a fierce advocate for animal-friendly and sustainable materials, is representing the fashion industry as a member of the “Coalition of the Willing,” a group of over 300 global business leaders brought together by Prince Charles to help address the climate crisis.

"We do have, I think, a potentially game-changing opportunity to drive forward the partnerships between government, business and private sector finance that are absolutely vital if we are to win the battle to combat climate change and biodiversity loss," Charles told Reuters.

Last Thursday’s event, on the eve of the official start of the G7 summit, brought together for the first time ever McCartney and business leaders from institutions like Bank of America, NatWest, HSBC, and Heathrow Airport to network and speak directly with government officials.

Three targeted initiatives, in development by the coalition for the past two years, were presented to global leaders. These included: a tool to drive finance and investment from the private sector to the highest priority sustainability projects around the world, recommendations for government policy to help drive green transitions, and the formation of 10 new coalitions to help drive sustainable investments and action in the top 10 highest emitting and polluting industries.

“I’m really here to ask all of these powerful people in the room to make a shift from convention to a new way of sourcing and new suppliers into the fashion industry,” McCartney said. “One of the biggest problems that we have in the fashion industry is we’re not policed in any way. We have no laws or legislations that will put hard stops on our industry…. We need to be incentivized, [and] we need to have taxations looked at to work in a better way.”

The price of staying fashionable

The impact of the fashion industry on the environment is likely worse than you think. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 20% of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment, 87% of total fiber input used for clothing is incinerated or disposed of in a landfill (with less than 1% recycled for new garments), and nearly a half a million tons of plastic microfibers are dumped into the ocean (the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles) every single year.1 On top of all of this, the industry is also responsible for an estimated 10% of global carbon emissions.1

For McCartney, who started her Stella McCartney fashion house in 2001 and now operates over 50 stores around the world, challenging the fashion world to weave sustainability into the business model was one of her chief goals.

“I design clothes that are meant to last. I believe in creating pieces that are not going to get burnt, that are not going to landfills and that are not going to damage the environment,” she told The Fashion Globe. “It’s really the job of fashion designers now to turn things on their head in a different way, and not just try to turn a dress on its head every season. Try and ask questions about how you make that dress, where you make that dress, what materials you are using.”

The designer’s new autumn 2021 collection, announced earlier this month, is her most sustainable yet. According to VegNews, more than 80% of the garments featured are made from eco-friendly materials such as repurposed old-stock fabrics, ECONYL regenerated nylon, Koba Fur Free Fur, sustainable beechwood, and forest-friendly viscose. She’s also using the opportunity to promote the Humane Society International’s (HSI) petition asking the UK government to ban the sale and import of animal fur.

Despite an uptick in brands moving in a more sustainable direction, McCartney told Vogue in 2019 that it’s still very much a lonely journey. Having others in the world of fashion take bigger steps to green their collections could help make a huge difference for the planet.

“If I could have more people join me in creating solutions, and there’s more demand, then we’re going to [succeed]. But if I’m the only one saying, ‘Hey, can I look at a corn fake fur?’ Or, ‘Can I look at fibers that are recycled or less harmful?’ then it’s going to take longer,” she said. “The minute we all join hands and have the same mission and the same honest approach, we’ll get there.”


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