Beatles-filled Paris runway highlights fashion's sustainability problem


A model presents a creation by designer Stella McCartney during the Autumn/Winter 2024 Paris Fashion Week. Photo: Reuters

A greenhouse in Paris’ Parc Andre Citroen was a fitting stage for Stella McCartney's ecology-minded showcase at Paris Fashion Week on Monday (March 4).

The British-American designer had star-studded endorsements – a front row with the two surviving members of The Beatles, Ringo Starr and her father, Paul McCartney, in a seldom-seen joint appearance – and the backing of the luxury conglomerate LVMH to spotlight the urgent need for the industry to reckon with its impact on the planet.

"We are one of the most harmful industries," Stella said in a challenge to luxury houses.

The collection's presentation began with an expletives-laden film voiced by Oscar winners Olivia Colman and Helen Mirren inviting the world to protect Mother Earth.

Stella's message was clear – glamour need not come at the Earth’s expense.

Cue sequins made from recycled aluminum, sparkling faux-diamond crystal lattice details and alternative leather handbags. Mock crocodile-skin trenchcoats were fashioned from AppleSkin, a vegan leather made from apple waste.

Read more: Can this new dyeing method truly help jeans shrink its toxic problem?

Dramatic wool coatdresses (one showcased by model of the minute Lila Moss, Kate Moss ’ daughter) sported cascading hoops and a swag in the silhouette, prompting one fashion insider to christen it the "new fur coat".

In terms of aesthetic, stiff shoulder pads offered a broad shouldered look this season with more than a whiff of the 1980s, while a stylish, asymmetrical vegan leather stud dress provided a nice flash of punk.

Sometimes the silhouette got lost in the shaggier looks – such as one limp black jumpsuit – but to dwell on that would be to miss the point.

That sustainability need not lead to compromising on opulence for luxury garments was a message aimed at the influential Antoine Arnault of LVMH, the world’s premier luxury group – seated in prime position, and whose wife, Natalia Vodianova, Stella selected as a model in the show.

Stella said that her aim for the industry is to "infiltrate from within".

Spotted at the runway show were (from left) Paul McCartney; model and actress Paris Jackson; Ringo Star and his wife, actress Barbara Bach. Photo: AFPSpotted at the runway show were (from left) Paul McCartney; model and actress Paris Jackson; Ringo Star and his wife, actress Barbara Bach. Photo: AFP

The fashion sector contributes to global greenhouse gas emissions, she said, underlining the urgency for change.

"I’m fighting inside, and they’re very open-hearted to it. I’m very encouraged," she said of LVMH, which bought a minority stake in her brand in 2019.

Stella said the clout and backing of LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault "gives a really, really loud message to the industry”.

In a fact sheet diligently sent to guests, Stella noted that 90% of this season’s ready-to-wear is crafted from "responsible materials".

It also pointed to new innovations that keep the brand at the cutting edge – including the bags coated with a curious substance called "Airlite", a technology that purports to actively purify the air around it!

Read more: How a UK modelling agency is breaking taboos and fostering diversity in fashion

A former Spice Girl was all smiles, greeting Stella after the show in between Beatles, before taking selfies with fans, interspersed with refrains of "girl power”.

Melanie C said she has admired Stella’s designs for "a very long time”.

"Being a sporty girl, I love the little nod to sport with the little rip away, with the denim and the vegan leather,” the artiste formerly known as Sporty Spice said.

The singer said found the collection with its eco-message "so moving, so prevalent, but it takes designers like Stella to get that message home". – AP

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