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GFW19: What came next for Stella McCartney?


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Graduate Fashion Week has been introducing us to the newest talent on the fashion scene for over two decades, paving the way from student to employment. But it’s also produced some of the biggest names in fashion, including designer and sustainability advocate, Stella McCartney. 

To celebrate the start of Graduate Fashion Week, we are looking at previous successful GFW alumni and what came after their show-stopping graduate shows. 

Image credit: Jaguar MNE, via Wikimedia Commons


Stella McCartney may be the daughter of a member of one of the most famous bands in the world, but she has also made a name for herself away from her father’s fame as an internationally successful fashion designer.

So, from fashion graduate to royal wedding designer, how did it all begin?

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1995: From Central St Martin student to high-fashion designer

Having previously interned for Christian Lacroix at the age of 16, in 1995 McCartney, who studied under the name ‘Stella Martin’, debuted her graduate collection (modelled by her supermodel friends, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Yasmin Le Bon) to the sound of her father’s bespoke soundtrack. The designer was fresh out of Central St Martin’s and ready to showcase her sharply tailored collections, which quickly elevated her to international fashion fame.


1997:  Rising-star in Paris

After just two collections, the then 25-year old rising-star was appointed the Creative Director of Chloé in Paris, taking over from Karl Lagerfeld. As the youngest designer to front the fashion house, McCartney was praised for “instilling an unseen youthfulness” to the label and showcased designs inspired by her London heritage. Following her work at the fashion house, McCartney won British Designer of The Year at the 1999 Elle Style Awards in London. 


2001: The Stella McCartney label is born

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McCartney left her job at Chloé and launched her own fashion house, showcasing her first collection in Paris in October 2001 in a joint venture partnership with Kering, who owned Italian fashion house Gucci.  Following in the steps of her animal rights activist mother, Linda McCartney, a strict no leather and no fur policy was at the core of the brand, which catapulted to global success. 

Following the Stella McCartney brand launch, the designer released her first perfume, “STELLA”, in 2003.


2004: High-fashion collaborator 

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As well as picking up Best Designer of the Year at the Glamour Awards, McCartney also designed the costumes for Madonna’s Reinvention Tour, Annie Lennox’s summer concert tour, and the wardrobe for Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law in the film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Alongside her growing celebrity clientele, McCartney also launched the long-term partnership ‘Adidas by Stella McCartney’ in September 2004. The critically acclaimed collection is still widely popular now and grown to facilitate several sports including swimming, yoga, gym-wear, winter sports and cycling. 

2005: Stella McCartney x H&M 

In May 2005, it was announced that McCartney would design a 40-piece collection for a high-street retailer, H&M. The collection launched the following November and sold out instantly.

After the success of her H&M collection, the designer took on another high-street collaboration with Australian store Target. At the time, McCartney cited her late mother, Linda McCartney, as the inspiration for the collection. Speaking to Sydney's Daily Telegraph at the time, McCartney said: 

"Mum was a big style icon for me. I wanted the collection for Target to reinterpret all the must-haves of Stella McCartney for winter and to make my designs more accessible to a wider audience in Australia."

2007: Award-winning designer

In November 2007, McCartney was crowned Designer of the Year at the British Style Awards, adding yet another award to her growing collection. 

In January 2007, the designer also launched a 100% organic skincare line called CARE.

2009: Following in her mother’s footsteps 

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Throughout her fashion career, the designer has been very vocal about her support of animal rights, mirroring the morals of her mother. In 2009, she spoke to The Guardian about her frustration towards the fashion industry’s “heartlessness” towards this subject: "People in fashion just don't want to hear the messages” she said.

"I find it astounding because fashion is supposed to be all about change - I mean, we're supposed to be at the cutting edge! I can only think that they don't care as much as people in other industries. So, yes, I think people in fashion are pretty heartless."

In October 2009, McCartney launched her first childrenswear collection for Gap Kids - curating a second collection for the retailer the following year.

2010: The Falabella handbag is born

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Ever wondered where the trademark braided chain design came from? Well, in winter 2010, McCartney introduced the fashion world to the Falabella handbag, featuring a chain detail that would become one of the most recognisable parts of the brand and see the handbag become one of the fashion house’s best-selling products.

The designer’s first kids’ collection also debuted this year, featuring designs ranging from ages newborn to 14.

2011: Returning to the London catwalk

In November 2011, it was announced that the designer would showcase a one-off collection during London Fashion Week in February 2012, making it the first-time McCartney had shown a collection in London since she graduated in 1995.

2012: Designing for London 2012

For the Olympic Summer Games in 2012, McCartney was appointed Team GB’s Creative Director by Adidas – marking the first time in the history of the games that a leading fashion designer had designed the apparel for the team across all competitions, including both the Olympic and the Paralympic Games.

2013: Stella McCartney, OBE

2013 marked a huge milestone in the designer’s career as she was presented with an OBE for excellence and service in the fashion industry. But, this wasn’t the only award she picked up. Throughout the year, McCartney won Best International Designer of the Year at the Elle Style Awards in Stockholm, and the Conscious Award at the H&M and Elle Awards.

2014: Sustainable fashion

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Ethical and sustainable fashion may be a hot topic now, but Stella McCartney was one of the first designers to take on an eco-conscious attitude with their clothes – with all Stella McCartney locations having recycling systems.

In 2014 sustainable eveningwear collection Stella McCartney Green Carpet Collection launched.

This year was also a big year for collections for the designer. She teamed up with the English artist Gary Hume for the autumn 2014 collection, featuring his illustrations on ready-to-wear pieces, partnered with NGO Canopy to ensure all viscose and other cellulose fabrics were sustainably certified by 2017, and launched the Clevercare initiative, aiming to ensure all clothing would feature the clever care logo to act as a reminder to consider the environment when washing.

2016: The POP fragrance launches

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2016 was a big year for the designer. After launching her ‘POP’ fragrance, in the summer McCartney launched her first swim collection and was again appointed as Team GB’s Creative Director by Adidas for the Summer 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

2018: The royal wedding


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Though over the years McCartney has developed a huge list of celebrity clientele, this job was perhaps the most prominent in her career. Last year, the designer was chosen by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, to design her wedding reception gown. McCartney, who also dressed Amal Clooney and Oprah for the royal wedding, later revealed that the Duchess approached her to design the dress because she’s a “woman's woman”, and spoke of how “honoured” she was to dress her.

From fashion graduate to royal wedding designer, over two decades on, the McCartney fashion house is undoubtedly a success story – operating 51 stores across the globe, with distribution across 77 countries.

Watch the Stella McCartney Winter 2019 show below:

For more GFW coverage straight from the shows follow us on Instagram.

Lead image credit: Jaguar MNE, via Wikimedia Commons

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