Stella McCartney Covers New York Times Magazine, Talks Phoebe Philo and Turning Down Tom Ford

Stella McCartney
Photo courtesy of New York Times Magazine
Stella McCartney.

We know all about Stella McCartney's rock 'n' roll pedigree, high-profile friendships with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson, and passionate anti-leather stance that has seen her starring in a recent PETA campaign.

But there's much more to the woman who gave us splashy citrus prints and the starlet-beloved Miracle dress. For the February 26 issue of The New York Times Magazine, Cathy Horyn follows the 40-year-old mother of four as she juggles father Paul's concerts and her daughter's dance recitals with the demands of being one of fashion's most prominent designers.

"I’ve actually never seen someone go from such a free spirit to such a kind of beautifully conventional, hard-working life as a wife and mother,” good friend (and former bridesmaid) Paltrow tells Horyn.

“She was in full fun mode when I met her, and I just fell in love with her. She was shockingly honest. I always say there’s this kind of hidden ghetto side to Stella. She’s tough. She doesn’t back down from someone who might have less to lose than her.”

Indeed, story after story sees McCartney—chicly clad in a zipper-front black dress for her cover shoot—sticking to her guns, whether it's insisting on a lucrative 50-50 deal with the Gucci Group in 2001, refusing to swap her Adidas gig for Puma at the request of PPR, and turning down what, to her mind, was a job offer from Tom Ford to design for the Gucci label because it was at odds with her anti-fur beliefs.

"He said: ‘Just come to my studio and look at everything. Maybe you’ll do it,’" she recalls. “As if all those exotic skins and corduroy hamster fur were going to turn me on and make me change my entire ethic.”

According to Ford, however, the offer never happened.

"It was never a conversation about taking over at Gucci," he insists, adding that he "just never corrected" her statements about being offered the job. "I think she might have interpreted that at a certain point.” 

This, of course, is news to McCartney.

“Oh, he’s a lying, cheating ... what?” she laughingly exclaims when told of Ford's side of the story.

"That’s the weirdest thing. Why would he take me into an office and show me every dead animal? Oops! ... How are you going to handle that? ‘Stella says she got offered Gucci but she didn’t ... LOSER!’"

Hardly. Despite a first eponymous collection that she describes as a "massive misstep," McCartney has done pretty well for herself since parting ways with Chloé, though she's quick to dispel rumors about a fallout with design partner Phoebe Philo, who succeeded her before moving on to Céline.

“I mean, we were living in each other’s pockets,” she says of her friendship with Philo in the early days. “We were stuck like glue ... [but] we didn’t have that fashion-chick falling out; we just moved on."

The designer, whom one friend describes as '50s housewife meets Madonna, also opens up about the importance of family, adding that it has helped her escape the demons that tormented her late friend, Lee McQueen.

"There are a lot of pressures,” she says of the fashion business.

“It’s overwhelming to leave the house sometimes. Even if I didn’t have kids, I would be the same, but I think my brain is occupied with things other than fashion, fashion, fashion.”

With four kids, how could it not be?