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2001-May-29: An Evening with Stella McCartney

Tomorrow evening, The Sunday Times Style & the Costume Society annual lecture will be delivered by Stella McCartney at the BP Lecture Theater at the British Museum, London.  During the hour and a half "Evening with Stella McCartney, she will talk about her life and work, and answer questions from the 320 audience members.

That evening Stella will be introduced by Colin McDowell, to whom she granted an interview
over afternoon tea in a garden in Rye last month.  She had just returned from riding her horse, which she keeps on her father's farm down the road. In spite of her reputation for establishing the international rock-chic school of fashion, she still considers herself to be a total country girl:

"You don't have to be one or the other, do you? I'd go to the country more and more if I could. Even when I'm in New York, I try to make time to slip off to my dad's place on Long Island for a break. And I love riding. I take after my mum, although I'm not quite so obsessive: she used to ride every day."

Even though she launching her own Stella McCartney label, she has no intention of allowing business to overwhelm her personal life:

"I come from a very close family.  I have two sisters and a brother, and we all come home as much as we can. We kids see a lot of each other. It's the way we were brought up. My parents were the sort who'd say, 'Let's all go to Scotland and live in a shed.' And we'd do it."

In recent years, however, Stella's private life has become much more public and demanding:

"I've become a media person. Wherever I go there are cameras. Then I think of all the young designers who'd kill to be in my position, and I can imagine them saying, 'What the hell is she doing it for if she doesn't like it?' And I think, get a grip, it's your bloody job."

Stella sees women of her generation being able to have it all:

"Or as much as they feel they want to handle. My mum was a full-on, powerful woman. She was in a rock band and became a famous photographer. She was a feminist, but, at the same time, an old-school woman and a dinner-on-the-table
mum. That's how I want to be.  I've inherited her love of cooking, and I very much want to be married and have children one day. I'd rather not do fashion if it meant that I couldn't have time for a family. But I don't think women today need to make that choice. Look at Donna Karan. She's a designer, a businesswoman and a mother. It's that sort of woman, who can do several things and keep a balance in her life, that I want to dress."

Her agreement with the Gucci Group grants her 100% control of her new business:

"All the decisions are mine until I make a stupid one. [She laughs.]  I don't know either of them very well [Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole of the Gucci Group], but
I decided to go with their offer because I felt they were the sort of people I'd like to have dinner with, and I admire the way Tom makes design-led decisions.

"The philosophy of the Gucci Group appealed to me. It is not only that it is a very clever, imaginative company, it's also that I think Tom and Domenico understand me. After all, they chose me -and that's a tremendous compliment. When I was trying to make the decision, it was flattering that so many of the big guys were interested in me, but at the same time it really stressed me out. I thought hard about setting up my own label, but I realized that after all my questioning and worry -I was even having panic attacks -what I most admired was people who were independent. So I thought, that's me."

One thing for certain - there will be no use of furs in her collections:

"I just want to say 'get real' to people who are pro-fur. They think it's glamorous and even rebellious, but in fact it takes more balls to say no.  The only two anti-fur rebels are me and the American designer Todd Oldham, and I guess we're considered boring. But, quite apart from the ethical issues, fur is just so old-fashioned. It's medieval. All I can say to anybody who thinks it a good idea to
keep such a gross taste going is, 'Hello? Do you think it's modern to drape a woman in the fur of a dead animal?' You know what? I can think of a hundred better ways than that for a woman to show that she's rich."

Last weekend, Stella announced that she will star in an anti-leather film that is being shot by Respect for Animals in London. The film will be shown in cinemas across Europe and America in October and is expected to shock audiences with its brutal depiction of animals being killed for their skins.  Appearing in the minute-long film with Stella will be some of her celebrity friends, including actors Jude Law and Sadie Frost, and singers Geri Halliwell and George Michael.

(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)


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