Stella McCartney Talks Sustainable Design and Collaborating With adidas
We caught up with fashion’s most conscious designer.
Stella McCartney is one of fashion’s most sustainable designers. A self-proclaimed “eco-weirdo,” the environmentalist and adidas collaborator has long been known for her positive contributions to the industry and if her recent collections are anything to go by, its clear that her desire to keep making the world a better place is going nowhere fast.
From design innovations like Mylo mushroom leather and plastic-free sequins, McCartney continues to display her proclivity for responsible design with every item she brings into the world — extending into her continuing partnership with adidas. The duo’s latest collection, dubbed “True Nature,” acted as a love letter to planet Earth. Paying tribute to the great outdoors, the collection continued to evolve McCartney’s penchant for the planet and saw the introduction of the brand’s first-ever sandal made with renewable and natural resources.
“Since 2005, sustainability has always been at the heart of what we do at adidas by Stella McCartney. We’re continuously working, questioning, exploring and pushing ourselves to progress so we can unearth new innovative materials and practices within our collections,” the designer tells Hypebae. “I know first-hand that sustainability isn’t a race that can be won alone. Collaboration is critical. Fashion is one of the most polluting industries, so it’s important that we come together to leverage our strengths and help drive change,” she adds.
We caught up with the lauded designer to find out more about the intersection between fashion and nature and how adidas by Stella McCartney seeks to go beyond the buzzwords when it comes to sustainable design.
Scroll down to read the full interview.
adidas by Stella McCartney often draws inspiration from the world around it. What can you tell us about the inspiration behind this season’s True Nature offering?
I love this collection and what it embodies. I was brought up on a farm, so I have had a strong connection to nature my whole life, which is why, when we started the creative process for this season, I wanted to explore and celebrate the natural highs we all feel when immersed in Mother Earth’s beauty.
This really comes to life with our Earth and weather satellite prints, which you can see on pieces like the TrueCasuals Woven Track-top. Through these incredible aerial views, we’ve created a new perspective of our planet, whilst combining earthy hues with bold colours to feel fresh and exciting. It looks like an amazing almost psychedelic, mesmerising pattern. It felt important to symbolise how different points of view can be so captivating, whilst embracing the joy and freedom I felt exploring the outdoors as a child – a feeling I know the next generation is seeking to experience too.
Increasingly, consumers and brands alike are becoming more and more intrigued by the great outdoors and their relationship with nature. Why do you think this is?
We’ve seen a cultural shift where a desire to move, explore and connect with nature is more important than ever – especially with the next generation. I think much of this has come down to the collective experiences of the last few years, particularly social isolation, that have made being natural spaces not only desirable, but necessary. We need it, we crave it. Our latest drop, Water Workout, really embodies this perspective. We designed it specifically to support new and expecting mothers as they move in and around the water, and it captures the expansive presence of oceans, lakes and rivers through captivating abstract prints and bold blues, pinks and yellows. I wish I had it when I was a new mum!
I don’t see this trend slowing down any time soon as more people find tranquillity and moments to move in the great outdoors. Nature is the perfect escape from our everyday lives and it’s right on our doorstep. We need to embrace, enjoy and experience it as much as we can.
How would you describe the relationship between fashion and nature?
Anybody who follows me and my fashion house knows nature is one of my forever inspirations. There is so much beauty to be found in the outdoors, from the vibrant hues of plants to the varying textures of landscapes. Mother Earth is an endless source of creativity.
What excites me most though is the role the planet plays in providing us with new ways to experiment and innovate, using natural materials to support more conscious methods of design. A great example is the adidas by Stella McCartney Predator Freak, which we launched in collaboration with Paul Pogba back in 2021. As the first adidas football boot made with vegan materials, I love how it embodied the powerful relationship between fashion and nature – and how they can come together on the sporting stage, too. There’s so much more for us to discover at the intersection of nature and fashion, and I for one am excited to be a part of the journey.
The new collection stars the Hika sandal, marking your first-ever sandal made with natural and renewable materials. What can you tell us about the process behind its design and material sourcing?
It’s been so exciting to introduce our first Hika sandal to the collaboration. When it came to creating this shoe, we knew we needed to push the limits of sustainable innovation, which led us to sourcing renewable and natural materials – including a midsole made from 50% BIO EVA derived from sugarcane, a cage crafted from a bio-synthetic vegan alternative to leather to provide stability and soft neoprene for inner cushioning. It’s always a thrilling challenge working with new materials and I’m so proud that we have created protective, functional and stylish sandals that can be worn in a variety of environments – from festivals to hiking. This will definitely be one of my favourites this summer, and for many more to come.
Sustainability and responsible design are key facets of your ethos. How does adidas by Stella McCartney embody those, and ensure that they go beyond the buzzwords?
Since 2005, sustainability has always been at the heart of what we do at adidas by Stella McCartney. We’re continuously working, questioning, exploring and pushing ourselves to progress so we can unearth new innovative materials and practices within our collections. As the original eco weirdo, I know first-hand that sustainability isn’t a race that can be won alone. Collaboration is critical. Fashion is one of the most polluting industries, so it’s important that we come together to leverage our strengths and help drive change.
My collaboration with adidas has allowed us to do just that and we’ve highlighted what is possible when you unite to create and innovate. An example I love was the adidas by Stella McCartney Sportswear Tracksuit Viscose that was made as part of the EU-funded New Cotton Project last year. Crafted using pioneering Infinited Fibre technology, the tracksuit incorporates 60% viscose and 40% cotton and provides an end-of-life existence – meaning that once our community have worn it out, they can then return it by scanning the QR code on the adidas app. This is then sent back to Infinited Fiber’s recycling stream, where it can be broken down to be reused – ensuring less waste goes into the fashion ecosystem. Every day is a new challenge and there is so much more to be done, but through our continued collaboration we can be sure that we always go beyond buzz words and push the limits in consciously crafted style.
One of the biggest issues that today’s consumers face is consuming sustainably whilst battling a constant need for newness. How does adidas by Stella McCartney respond to that issue?
One of my top ambitions with both my own brand and our adidas by Stella McCartney collaboration is to create pieces that are timeless – not only in the design and fits of the products, but also in how we create them and the materials we use. We are committed to innovations that help to reduce our impact on Mother Earth when crafting our collections, including creating products made in part from plastic intercepted from beaches and coastal communities, alongside use of recycled polyester diverted from landfill. By 2024, we will have transitioned to recycled polyester instead of using virgin polyester wherever possible which is so major.
I’m incredibly proud of my work with adidas. Together, we’ve been working towards incorporating more sustainable practices and materials into our products for the 18 years of our partnership. Throughout this time, we have collaborated with some incredible pioneers across the fashion, music and art space including Lourdes Leon and Ella Emhoff, who share our passion for seeking out better solutions for minimal environmental compromise to enable our community to make more conscious choices.
How do you work towards minimizing waste within the design and manufacturing process?
Our shared commitment to sustainability is embedded into how we have done business for over 18 years, and managing the environmental impact of the products we create is and always will be a top priority for us here at adidas by Stella McCartney. I love how adidas’ current focus is on lowering its impact, changing the way it creates and designs products to reduce its carbon footprint – making more progress every season. This includes steadily increasing the use of conscious materials and manufacturing technologies in products, whilst also providing suppliers with guidelines to reduce their waste during production. Furthering that, the adidas environmental footprint tool enables it to quantify and monitor environmental impacts along its entire production process, use and end of life, and communicate that to the consumer.
Finally, what can you tell us about the future of adidas by Stella McCartney? What innovations are you currently exploring?
We’re constantly motivated to take consciously crafted performance style into different spaces and help improve accessibility to sport. I can’t share too much right now, but we have some exciting collections coming up – including a first for the brand!