Stella McCartney On The Olympics, Papa Paul, and Ethical Fashion

Stella McCartney for Interview
Photo: Craig McDean/courtesy of Interview
Stella McCartney for Interview.

Turns out Keira Knightley's not the only bad-ass Brit featured in the April issue of Interview.

Fresh off her Absolutely Fabulous cameo, Stella McCartney sits down with fashion writer Tim Blanks for a revealing chat about the challenges of designing from an ethical standpoint, her famous parents, and why creating the Olympic uniforms for Great Britain was "way out of my comfort zone."

"My biggest surprises in my everyday job have to do with the challenges of trying to be slightly more responsible as a brand," McCartney says of her pledge to not use animal products in her collection. 

"My big surprises are when I say, 'That fair-trade knitwear we did last season in Peru, I want to do it again,' and someone else says, 'Okay, it rained for two months and that factory sat on a mountaintop and it doesn't exist anymore.'"

Citing a recent situation in which a factory couldn't keep up with her order, the PETA advocate says that her eco aesthetic has taught her to think on her feet.

"For me, that's modern," she says. "It's how life should be. I'm reacting to realities. You just don't try to pretend that life doesn't have its ups and downs. I think that the fashion industry, like a lot of industries, has a way of falling into patterns. Our company has to react in a more proactive way because of what we believe in, and I find that really interesting. The interesting thing for me is that you learn. And for me that's what fashion should be about. You should be changing every season and learning, and to me that's what becomes modern and exciting about it. It's not just about the shape of a sleeve or the silhouette of a skirt."

The designer also opens up about the flak she got for being the daughter of Paul McCartney, with some wondering if she had the skills to actually cut it as a fashion designer.

"I find it interesting now to think about," she admits. "I probably didn't have permission to be a fashion designer because I had a famous set of parents, even though I'd done the exact same training as every other fashion designer I'd known. I didn't grow up in public, as you say, but people knew who my dad was when I came out. I mean, I didn't go, 'Hi, my dad's Paul McCartney.'

"At the same time, I didn't shy away from it. I was just kind of quietly upfront about it. My first show, I used famous models, and my thinking about that was other people in my situation would probably use those models if they knew them, so why would I go out of my way to not use them? Because I did think maybe I should not do that. But in the end I decided that's a bit strange—I'm not doing something I would naturally do because I'm worried that some people are going to make a negative judgment about me. So I didn't knowingly promote it, but at the same time I did try to react to it in a realistic way, which is that sometimes it helped, and sometimes it didn't."

Photographed by Craig McDean, she also weighs in on the pressures of the fashion industry, which have been blamed for John Galliano's meltdown and Alexander McQueen's suicide.

"I'm sure there were many factors," she says. "I don't think anyone can give an exact reason. Yeah, there's a lot of pressure in our industry. We all feel it. But I think there's a lot of pressure in a lot of industries. Sometimes the fashion industry can get a bit kind of isolated and it's all 'Oooh! It's so relentless!' But I don't see our industry as the only one like that. But I do think that personality comes into play a lot. I also try not to take myself too seriously. When I feel myself getting nervous and stressed and self-absorbed, I try to just go, 'Oh, come on.'

"For me, the pressure is when you employ a lot of people and you have family that you want to look after. I felt it on my first show. It obviously didn't go at all well, and I felt very responsible for all the people who had invested time and energy. That was more my disappointment than any personal feeling. At the same time, I'm just so happy and proud when we have rave reviews like we did recently. I very much believe—I'm not particularly good at it—that you can't just believe all the good stuff. If you believe the good stuff, you've got to believe the bad stuff, too."

For now, McCartney is focused on her latest achievement, designing Team Great Britain's kit for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"No designer has worked with the entire team before," she tells Blanks. "Between the Olympic and the Paralympic teams, that's 900 athletes, which is thousands upon thousands of products. The magnitude of that is way out of my comfort zone. What's most mind-blowing about it is I'm serving the nation a bit, serving the team, trying to bring them together."

No doubt Papa Paul is beaming with pride.

For more Stella McCartney, visit and pick up the April issue, on sale April 10.