Charlie Rose Talks to Stella McCartney

Photographer: Kristin Callahan/Everett Collection/Alamy

You’ve had your own label since 2001. How is it evolving? What makes it different?
The thing that maybe places us aside from the rest of the fashion houses in luxury is, we have a different approach. We’re asking questions, challenging the system a little bit. It means we’re unconventional in our manufacturing. [We ask] a lot of questions on sourcing, including the fact that there are over 50 million animals a year killed in the name of fashion.

How did you come to that sensitivity?
I grew up on an organic farm in England. And I was a vegetarian from an early age—not just for health, not for the environment, just because I didn’t believe in killing animals to eat them. And then I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I didn’t think that I could not eat it and just go, “Hey, it’s OK, because it’s a handbag and a pair of shoes.”

You have a perfume called Stella. How involved were you in developing that?
I actually knew what I wanted. My fragrance is rose and amber, and I was just very specific. A lot of what I’ve done, at the stages I’ve done it, I’ve been a little naive, which brought with it a kind of charm. I did Stella a while ago. It’s now a bit of a classic. There are hundreds and hundreds of fragrances launched every year. To still have one that’s in the market is really unheard of.

Women’s fashions aside, you were involved with Britain’s Olympic team, right?
I’m the first designer to do an entire team. I did Team GB, the pure performance stuff, the A to Z of every single thing that everyone wore. I worked with thousands of athletes, and it was amazing. I do a collaboration with Adidas also. And we’ve actually just launched a new line together called Stella Sport, which is sort of younger and bigger distribution and a lower price point.

You’ve done a lot. When you were starting out, did you feel you had a fallback position?
I was afforded the greatness of being able to be myself. A lot of people say to me, “Having the parents you had, do you think that opened doors? Closed doors?” I think it’s a bit of both. The thing it’s helped me with is it let me really not be too afraid. I can take risks.

Your mother was a profound influence.
My mum was special. She was different. She had an approach that was just so natural and genuine and effortless and truly beautiful. She didn’t wear makeup; she didn’t shave her legs; just very unconventional, especially in her role as a very famous man’s wife. We’d go to parties with the most famous people in the world and she’d be in the kitchen chatting to the people serving the food. That was what interested her.

Are you doing business in Asia?
Yeah, we are. It’s funny for us in Asia, because we’re a small brand. In Asia they know the big brands. I always felt that, with the Asian markets, fashion brands have come in and gone, “Right, let’s make a ton of money.” And that’s not really where I’m coming from. What’s interesting for us is that we’re appealing to those women out there who are looking at sustainability, looking at more responsible fashion houses. We have a story to tell, and that’s quite rare, I think.

Watch Charlie Rose on Bloomberg TV weeknights at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET.

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