Stella Nina McCartney was born on 13th September 1971, the daughter of former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and the late photographer Linda McCartney. As a child Stella travelled the world with her parents and their pop group Wings. Despite their fame, the McCartneys wanted their children to lead as normal lives as possible so the children attended state schools and grew up without bodyguards and the normal celebrity trappings.
Stella became interested in designing clothes aged 13 when she created her first jacket. Three years later she interned for Christian Lacroix and she later worked with her father’s tailor Edward Sexton on Savile Row. She studied her foundation art at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication and then completed a fashion design degree at Central Saint Martins in the early 1990s.
Stella’s signature style of sharp tailoring, flirtatious femininity and natural confidence was immediately apparent from her breakthrough degree collection and has become her trademark. Although she has never overtly used her famous background there is no doubt that her throng of celebrity friends helped propel her into the limelight. Her graduate collection was modelled by her friends Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Yasmin Le Bon and the music was written by her father.
When McCartney joined Chloé in the mid 1990s, her predecessor Karl Lagerfeld was less than impressed with the house's choice, famously stating, “Chloé should have taken a big name. They did, but in music, not fashion. Let's hope she's as gifted as her father”. Despite some initial scepticism, McCartney's designs proved a great success and reinvigorated the atelier.
When she had joined Chloé, the brand was seen to be out-dated and was producing unsuccessful collections. Out went the grey carpets and 1980s décor in its Rue du Faubourg St Honoré headquarters and in came boho Notting Hill style. McCartney brought with her the softly feminine floaty look which her mother had loved in the 1970s and injected it with a nineties sense of casual cool. When McCartney, a strict vegetarian, joined Chloé her contract stipulated that she need never work with fur or leather. All Chloé and subsequent Stella McCartney shoes were made from vinyl, plant derivatives or plastics, bags and belts were made from similar or variations of fabric and raffia.
By the new millennium rumours were circulating that McCartney was to establish her own label under the wing of the Gucci Group. It was thought that McCartney’s stance on animal rights would prevent the move but when she eventually signed a contract she had full control of both her designs and materials.
Since starting her own label, McCartney has also collaborated on projects with various artists including Gary Hume, R.Crumb, Jeff Koons, David Remfry and Ed Ruscha. Under her eponymous label, Stella McCartney collections include women’s ready-to-wear, accessories, lingerie, eyewear, fragrance and a line of organic skincare.
McCartney has never been a fashion revolutionary. She has always designed clothing that she personally likes and would wear and therein lays her broad appeal. Her success lies in not only the appeal of her clothes to her celebrity friends such as Liv Tyler, Cameron Diaz and Madonna, but also in its appeal to the many women who want to buy into her particular brand of ‘Portobello Road meets les Champs-Élysées’. As Milan Vukmirovic, artistic director of Colette, Paris’ trendiest clothes store, said of McCartney’s time at Chloé, “Her airbrushed T-shirts were like freshly baked baguettes. Less than 24 hours after we put them in the window, every single one had gone”.
The basis of the McCartney look is slim fitting trousers and jeans, ethereal blouses and dresses made from the lightest materials. These are mixed with a hint of elegant sportswear, the occasional strong graphic print and the odd playful shape. She is also famous for her exquisitely cut trouser suits and jackets, a remnant of her early Savile Row training. McCartney has marked out a territory that is all about sexy ease and discreet luxury. “We’ve done the feminist thing and beaten men down, and now we want to lure them back. I think there's a danger in being too girly though.”