Archive for Sunday, September 14, 2003

Stella: the scent of one woman

September 14, 2003

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— Stella McCartney lives by pretty strict rules: She doesn't eat meat, she won't gossip about her famous friends, who include Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow, and she won't work with leather or fur -- not an easy feat in the fashion world.

Now that she's launching her own signature fragrance, she has made a few additions to her principled list. Stella, developed with YSL Beaute, is made from only organic active ingredients, it doesn't use genetically modified crop raw materials, and the perfume and accompanying body products were not tested on animals.

McCartney says she's not sure if these rules have helped or hindered her career, but they've made her what she is today. (Considering she has her own designer label within the prestigious Gucci Group by age 31, it's doubtful her personal ethics have held her back.)

"What I try to do is always in the best interest of my client. If they know what I stand for, I wouldn't want to cheat them by not following through," says McCartney, who was recently in New York to promote the fragrance.

Whenever possible, she says, she gets written commitments from her business associates pledging that they, too, are following her ethical guidelines.

But since it's her name sewn into the label of that cashmere coat and etched into the perfume bottle, McCartney says her work is very personal.

"What really inspires me is me. ... I try to bring out the friction of my sexy feminine side and the masculine powerful side. It's how I try to act and then portray in my work," she says.

Instead of trading on her famous name -- "McCartney" as in daughter of Paul -- and presumably a family fortune to launch a trendy, quick-sell teen line when she felt a calling to fashion, McCartney decided to learn the craft of master tailoring on Saville Row in London while also taking design classes at Central Saint Martins College in the early 1990s.

She then moved on to the house of Chloe in 1997, where she earned respect in the fashion world for her feminine clothes. She won the Designer of the Year trophy at the 2000 VH1 Vogue Fashion Awards, and her dad surprised her on stage to hand her the award.

Stella McCartney's new perfume, simply called Stella, is based on a
single rose that she has a photograph of.

Stella McCartney's new perfume, simply called Stella, is based on a single rose that she has a photograph of.

When she struck the Gucci deal in 2001 to do her own name-brand collection, she did it on the condition that she'd have complete creative control. "I don't just want to be the face of a megabrand," she says.

A fragrance was sure to follow several seasons of successful ready-to-wear clothes and glitzy, star-studded store openings.

"Part of me didn't want to give up my name (for the fragrance); it's more personal since it's just 'Stella'," she says, "but it's the honest thing to do."

She adds: "And Stella is a nice name for a perfume."

The fragrance is built around a rose -- a very specific rose that McCartney had a photograph of. "It's a rose that is so full it's bursting. Its petals are about to fall off," she describes.

Answering some critics who thought she might be in the fashion game for just a few years of glory, McCartney, a newlywed, says she's in for the long haul, and she expects her collection to grow. She sees more stores, more styles and maybe even more perfumes.

It's the constant evolution of style, both personally and in the whole industry, that keeps her interested in the fashion, she explains.

"The main thing that keeps me going is the deeper element of the fashion business: The idea that what you wear is how people read you and to figure out what is the reason you buy something," she says. "For me, it's not about the search for a perfect button."

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