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2002-May-12: In Interview with Stella

Today's Sunday Herald Sun magazine featured an interview with Stella McCartney.  The author, Chrissy Iley, found Stella in her Paris studio dressed in a pinky-beige, thick-knit cashmere of her own design, languidly sprawled on a white sofa, fiddling with a pin:
 "Oh, I don't know why I can't put this down. I just picked it up and I keep picking at it."
Was it because of the song that says "Find a pin and pick it up and all the day you'll have good luck?"  No, because Stella claims she didn't get that song.  She added with a smile, "I got other songs, like Yesterday."

Stella spoke of her work at Chloe and how she turned the company's fortunes around a hundred times:

"I had nothing to lose when I took it on. It was really beaten down, so in that sense I couldn't go wrong.  I think if you grow up with people saying, 'It's all right for you, every single good thing that has happened to you is because of someone else', you are constantly questioning the pats on your back, but I guess you can't ignore this. The sales figures proved it.

"The whole point of it really is to encourage easy access. When I first started designing, a really good girlfriend of mine came in and got one of my slip dresses. The next day, she said, 'What have you sprayed on that dress? I've never had such a response to a dress from men'. She got home and her boyfriend immediately shagged her on the floor. I would never assume that my own clothes should entice such a reaction, but maybe it was how she felt in that dress.  If my clothes bring out something within a woman that she couldn't get wearing something else, it's the greatest achievement. To be confident is very sexy, isn't it?"

Is that why she only ever wears the clothes she designs?
"It would be foolish of me not to. I'm in this perfect position. What shall I wear today? I'll design something. When I was a kid, I just wore (chain store) Topshop.  I didn't have the cash. Kids aren't meant to have designer clothes."
Growing up, one of Stella's heroines was the Doris Day's version of Calamity Jane:
"She's a real tomboy, riding horses in her chaps, and then she's got the ball gown and she's all feminine and everyone falls in love with her. I love the fact that she was just as sexy as the tomboy; in fact, sexier.

"It's all about being powerful in our femininity, how we don't want to be pushed around. You can wear a fragile chiffon dress and that doesn't mean you're not a foxy lady. I love the intellectual aspect of making clothes for women. When I was doing slip dresses, underwear as clothes, not many other people  were doing it."

Stella joked about some of the other gossip written about her.  They gossip when she cuddles with her boyfriend and again when she holds hands with Gwyneth Paltrow:
"Ah, yes, I have two lesbian lovers. My first supposed lesbian lover, Sam Taylor-Wood, rang me and said, 'Have you seen the Daily Mail? They've called me your companion with a choice of clothing with overtly masculine overtones'.

"I find it hard to get my head around the fact that people want to create gossip about me. I'm still surprised by it. I suppose it comes from my background, but I just don't feel particularly well known. I don't perceive any level of celebrity.

"What's really sad is that it's always women who are not particularly nice about me. And I love women.

"I'm used to begrudging enthusiasm. We've just started a new company. I've hand-picked my team, we've worked non-stop, then people get the facts wrong, like say I work for Gucci.  Look, I've done interviews before with women who seem nice, and then it comes out all catty. You seem cuddly and tactile, and that's what it should be like with women. That's what my mum was like."

The make-up artist Barbara Daly describes Stella this way: "She is completely her mother's daughter. Her gutsiness, her set of principles, she learned all that from Linda. They were incredibly close."  Stella is still sad much of the time, missing her mother.  He carries on her mother's anti-blood-sports and anti-fur campaigns.  She even scolded the interviewer about her fur collar:
"You shouldn't do this. Anyone who buys fur should be ashamed of herself. Stop it. It's disgusting, barbaric. I'm the one designer speaking out in this industry. Everyone else is in the fur team and I am the rebel."
Is it true that Stella was furious when pro-hunting Camilla Parker Bowles turned up at one of her fashion shows?  Stella said no:
"Obviously I'm an anti-blood-sports person, but I don't get personal about it with people. That's what the tabloids do. I didn't have any row with her. I said, 'Thank you for coming. Good-bye'."
Does Stella still have her horse?
 "Yes. He's called Blanket. He's a stallion and the most beautiful thing in the world. We breathe horse and English to each other. He's beautiful, he's such a person."
And what about her boyfriend, Alasdhair Willis, publisher of Wallpaper magazine?
"Yes, he looks after me, but I don't talk about my relationships with my dad, brothers, sisters, boyfriend. Why don't I talk about them? Because they're the real things, the only thing that's left if everything went wrong."
So, in general, what does Stella look for in a boyfriend?
"Good people, and I've got a good person at the moment. I'm not a punish-myself kind of bird. I'm quite balanced. Everything else is hard enough. In a perfect day, I'd wake up when I wanted to, eat in bed, watch telly, read a book, ride my horse and kiss my boyfriend. That's it. Nothing planned. Heaven. That never happens."
Does Stella have a career plan?
"No. I'm just excited about beginning something that's my baby. I've got a perfume I'm working on, and shoes and bags."
Has she always had lots of celebrity friends?
"They came with the clothes, actually. They loved the clothes and that's how I met them."
Stella design the wedding dress of her celebrity friend, Madonna.  The famous gown has never been seen.
"Exactly. And no one will get to see it. Beautiful, though.  I'm just good like that. I didn't tell anyone I was her maid of honor. Everyone thought it was Gwyneth. Oh well, I've just said it to you now, but you've got to keep part of your soul. A wedding dress is special, isn't it?"
Does Stella always use her father's music in her shows?
"If my dad was not a famous musician and I was a famous designer I would still put his stuff in. Bloody hell, we're family."
In her last show, she played the song Something, in memory of George Harrison:
"Bloody hell. He was family too."
Her horse print designs are Stella's tribute to her mother:
"My mum rode every day of her life. When I ride her horse, it's the closest I can be to her. I feel like her. I see what she saw. When I look at her photos, I'm watching and seeing as her. I see what she was looking at."
With the name of "Stella" does she feel she was destined to be a star?
"I love the name, but I never think of myself as a star. I was named after my great-great-grandmothers - both called Stella. I love that. What a beautiful coincidence."
And what about her former assistant, Phoebe Philo, the new designer for Chloe.  It it true they are no longer friendS?
"I think it's the media wanting to play women against women. I think men think that's sexy."
So Stella is okay with her?
"Yeah. I'm okay with everyone...Everything's wonderful. I don't create any friction in my life if I can help it. Life's too short."

(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)


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