Fashion goes tech: Stella McCartney’s sustainable push

Erik Madigan Heck, shot on Google Pixel 3

2018 has seen climate change anxiety reach an all time high.

Now with it’s own term – solastalgia – the effects are tangible. We’re seeing a sharp rise in consumer demand for sustainable, ethically-sourced goods, and it’s set to cause major shifts within the fashion industry.

As we move into 2019, the winning brands will be those that prove to consumers that sustainable fashion doesn’t have to mean a compromise on aesthetics. New technology can be harnessed to push eco-futuristic fashion – ethical clothing can be beautiful.

Kickstarting the conversation for the year, sustainable fashion pioneer Stella McCartney sits down with WIRED UK  in their agenda-setting January/February 2019 issue. “Technology is, for me, the future of the conversation that we started in the fashion industry a very, very long time ago,” says McCartney.

From bioengineered spider silk to mushroom leather, innovative tech is now front-of-mind for the designer, who says that, when setting out on new  “the starting point is not design, the starting point is sustainability.”

The feature comes just days after McCartney announced the launched of Stella McCartney Cares Green, a new arm of the Stella McCartney Cares non-profit, with the focus in supporting the designer’s on going personal commitments and causes close to her heart. The Green vertical will work with innovators, develop programs that will enrich understanding of sustainable fashion, and help to drive the next generation of disruptive animal-free, sustainable materials.

Already, McCartney’s sustainable edge is bleeding through into different brands through creative partnerships. Her ongoing collaboration with Adidas has seen in the brand’s first vegan sneaker, the Stella McCartney stan smith. “We pushed to get it vegan and they let me. And we did it. I’m so proud. That is the future,”she tells WIRED UK.  And there’s a degree of satisfaction, as she [relishes] “the thought that 99 per cent of our customers see the Stan Smith, and haven’t got a clue it’s a vegetarian shoe”.


Footwear is a category that McCartney has honed in on, with her own loop sneaker – glue free, and entirely recyclable.  “That took 18 months to develop,” she says. “I paid for it myself. There’s zero encouragement. There’s no government policy. Nobody has given me any incentive to do this. But I’m still doing it. So if I’m doing it, anyone can do it”.

With sustainability front of mind, Stella still understands the importance of aesthetics for commercial success, and to generate real impact. “If I don’t design things that are desirable and sexy, and a must-have for people, then it just ends up in landfill anyway,” she tells WIRED UK.

In using tech and innovation to strike this balance, McCartney is setting a precedent across the fashion arena for 2019, and for further into the future.

See the full feature in the January/February 2019 issue of WIRED UK, available on newsstands and digital download on Thursday 6th December 2018.

Know what’s next. Become a WGSN member today to benefit from our daily trend intelligence, retail analytics, consumer insights and bespoke consultancy services.