In between comparing handbags (Stella prefers the ‘lightweight’ variety), bitching about the weather and manhandling most of the new season stock, I managed sneak in more than 5 minutes worth of interview time with the multi-talented Mrs McCartney…
LPA: You’ve been working with Adidas for eight years now, how did the collaboration actually come about in the first place? Was designing a line of (very stylish) sportswear something you’d always hoped to do one day?
SM: Initially it came about because I knew someone (working) at Adidas! When I did my first solo collection after leaving Chloe I wanted to have sneakers on the runway but I didn’t really love the fashion sneakers around at the time, so I wanted to collaborate with Adidas to make them. Because of my friendship we did this one-off sneaker and then about 6 months later they came and asked if I would do the Originals line - the more casual, fashion side with no technology – and I said look, number one you do that great, you don’t need me and number two, I don’t find it exciting. I don’t want to just design tracksuits, I’d rather do a performance range… And here we are. It all came from working together on one little thing with them but it’s a really big part of our brand philosophy now, it really is part of our woman.
LPA: How greatly does the design process for your Adidas collections differ from what goes into your Stella McCartney mainline collections?
SM: The design process isn’t completely different. I’ll always be a fashion designer first and foremost so I always start from a fashion point of view. I do the research and get inspired by a woman, that’s the same for anything I do, but then the technology does come into play. There are loads of limitations when you’re working with technology so the design process has to be led by it because of all the constraints. Some of the time we work in the same way as I would on my mainline collections but then other times the process is more technology led. For instance, if we’re working on a new sneaker it’ll be the technology that leads the actual project whereas on some of the outfits we have more freedom. Technology really drives this range so often it can be a new material that inspires the product itself.
LPA: How important do you think it is to stay chic whilst exercising? It can be pretty near impossible but when you live in a city like London, it’s hard not to want to look presentable at the gym or in the park. Do you have any top tips for sweating in style?
The starting point and the foundation of the whole collaboration (with Adidas) was, ‘why should you sacrifice your style for your sport? Why should you be embarrassed when you get caught on the way back from the gym?’ You should look as cool working out as you do in everyday life. You should be able go for a pint afterwards, you should be able to feel confident in how you look. What I found really disappointing, and still do 8 years in, is how women especially take technology less into when dressing for their sport. We so want to look good that often, a woman will just wear her favourite t-shirt to work out. You should be able to wear your favourite garment but it should have the clima cool technology in there and it should be made from a material that doesn’t sweat as much. I think those were the foundations for me in working with technology and style so I really love the whole idea of pack-away and lightweight clothes you can chuck in your bag. You want to be able to bike to work but you don’t want to carry around a load of stuff… I think with exercise it’s really important that you should be able to bring it in to your life.
When you’re working out it’s so hard to get motivated and I think you need to feel like something’s going to take you that extra little bit. Getting dressed to work out should inspire you to work out. I think that colour has a great home in sportswear. When you start with black it’s really hard to get away from it and if you’ve just got the same old black leggings and black t-shirt on that’s not going to inspire you. Fashion’s there to inspire people and with sports, the two together takes it to a whole different level.
LPA: Stella McCartney mainline, Stella McCartney Kids, Adidas by Stella McCartney, Stella McCartney perfumes, accessories, sunglasses… How do you find the time to do so much, so successfully?
I’m not going to pretend we’re not extremely busy. I have just one girl that I work with on Adidas so it’s a really tight team. I’m the one that has the overview of everything but that works well as I know what’s going on with kids, with Adidas, our own collection and lingerie and sunglasses… I really am the Creative Director and I think that’s good because it brings everything together in the same voice. But I have a good team. If you want to grow you have to at some stage think, right, I cannot do everything myself, I have to trust in my team and enable my talented people. I had to learn to delegate a bit more and learn to be part of the process rather than trying to control everything.
LPA: The Olympics are just days away now, how do you feel about seeing your designs on every athlete representing Great Britain?
SM: I’m really, really excited about it. I’ve been working on it for nearly 3 years so it’s been a huge part of my life and really one of the most challenging design projects I’ve done ever without a doubt. I feel like my work is done and I can now hand it over to everyone else.
LPA: What were your main considerations while designing the kit for Team GB?
SM: The main thing for me was working closely with the athletes and delivering on what they needed. One of my big roles was to really try and make them a team. I think they really wanted that, both when they were performing and when they weren’t, even when they’re just in the village. I thought it was funny how so many of them said ‘we want to go and get our meals together in the food hall. We all want to sit down round a table and everyone to look at us and know we’re team GB’. There in a village for two weeks and want to feel unified so I worked on the village kit very closely and wanted it to look like a famiy, one body of work.
This is the first year that a fashion designer has ever worked on the Olympic kit. It’s also the first time that an entire team’s kit has been worked on so comprehensively and more products have been introduced than ever. In previous Olympics a lot of the time women just got the men’s stuff, for instance, in the last games the women cyclists just had the men’s all-in-ones. I was outraged by that so I made a point of trying to really deliver for both sexes this time round.
Love Ella. X