Stella McCartney on Jaguar, Off-Roading, and Road Trips to Scotland With Neil Young

Jaguar designer Ian Callum (left) and Stella McCartney. Her husband's close friendship with Callum led to their eventual meeting and partnership on the Jaguar XE sedan designs. Source: Jaguar

This week in Paris Stella McCartney showed us her idea of breezy feminine ease during her Spring/Summer 2015 collection. Models in neutral makeup and natural hair wore billowing summer dresses and pastel floral print tops. Cara Delavigne closed the show.

But her S/S 2015 work wasn't confined to the runway. Anyone standing outside L'Opera also got a look at 10 of the limited-edition Jaguar XE sedans her design house wrapped for the occasion in her trademark 'Superhero' print (cheeky, colorful, and cartoonish masks dotting a black background). The company was using them to transport celebrities and VIPs around Paris for the week in advance of the XE's debut at the Paris Auto Show. Talk about brand positioning.

The partnership happened because McCartney's husband, Alasdhair Willis, is close friends with Jaguar's lead designer, Ian Cullum. McCartney said she took it because the idea of working with a different medium -- especially one that involved technology -- intrigued her.

"I love branching out of fashion," she said a few hours after the show had ended. "And I love that they're a heritage British brand. There are many things that I feel are kind of exciting about two British brands from different disciplines working together like that." Stella is the daughter of Beatles frontman Paul McCartney. She attended Central Saint Martins design school and designed for Chloe before starting her own line.

I met the 43-year-old Brit for coffee yesterday at L'Hotel du Collectionneur. She wore a crisp white button-down shirt, soft boyfriend jeans, and pointed-toe laced loafers. We discussed her work with Jaguar, her early love for off-roading Land Rovers (she learned to drive on the family farm), and her idea of pure happiness (it doesn't involve driving, actually).

Hannah Elliott: How did you balance the aesthetic of your fashion house with a considerably older heritage brand like Jaguar?

Stella McCartney: Well, you know, we really did apply a kind of ‘Stellaism’ to one of their creations. When I was asked to do that, I was like, 'well let's have fun with it' because there's no point in really changing something that's so considered and designed with such depth and seriousness. It's not a light project designing a car, right? It's a big deal. It's a big risk financially. That's a serious thing. So for me the serious side, the real considered part, had already been done by Jaguar. There's no point in me trying to add more seriousness on top of seriousness. Let me try and add some lightness.

HE: I can see that. So would you do it again?

SM: Right now we're here in the moment. This is it. This moment. It's not something we've really talked about massively.

HE: Did you have a particular interest in cars before this work?

SM: I'm not a car-obsessed person, but I do very much appreciate beautiful things and beautiful, considered design.

HE: I know that you did have a private viewing of Ralph Lauren's car collection at the Louvre.

SM: Ha, yes. It's not me personally. I'm not obsessed with having a million cars. But I have a definite appreciation. The way that I look at cars, actually it's funny, it’s the way I approach my work in a way. I grew up with cars in my family -- there were some fun little ones and there were some serious ones. And I always took appreciation on both worlds. I do love the heritage and the technology.

HE: What did you learn to drive on?

SM: A Land Rover! It was shift. There was no power steering. It was a proper Land Rover.

HE: I love those old trucks. What kind was it?

SM: It wasn't the Defender. It was just the old boxy Land Rover. And since we had farms, you couldn't really learn on any other car. And, you know, I couldn't go on the roads, obviously, so I went off-road a lot. And then I went on to driving a MINI.

HE: I imagine that with your life now, you don't drive all that much.

SM: I used to love driving when I was young. My idea of happiness is not driving. My idea of happiness is not moving in any kind of moving vehicle. Just not traveling. Just sitting on a horse is my favorite mode of transport. But I do love driving. And I love road trips. I think road trips are the best thing in the world. I think road trips with a sandwich. I like a road trip.

HE: Yes! So where would you go if you were leaving today?

SM: I like Scotland for a road trip. And you'd have to get on the occasional ferry.

HE: What would you listen to while you drive? Anything in particular?

SM: Well, I'd listen to music. [Laughs]

HE: Ha, okay, noted.

SM: Ha! As opposed to talking. Radio 6 or Radio 4, which is for old people. Radio 6 is for slightly younger people. And a little Neil Young.

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