Thoroughly Modern McCartney
We talk to the renowned British designer reshaping wedding dresses to reflect the contemporary women who wear them.
A royal wedding was the proving ground for Stella McCartney's first bridal collection (now at Nordstrom), a stunning selection of gowns that are as relevant as the skillful designer's ready-to-wear line. After all, the world watched approvingly this May as the newly minted Duchess of Sussex departed for her reception in a sinuous halter-neck dress by the British designer.
"To have been chosen by the Duchess of Sussex to make her evening gown and represent British design was truly one of the most humbling moments of my career," McCartney reflects. "I've always felt very protective over that moment, and to be entrusted with it means a lot to me."
Markle's Magnolia halter gown with its trumpet skirt almost instantly trended online, with wedding watchers frantically searching, first for the designer and then for similar styles. And McCartney didn't disappoint: she released a limited run of the dress one month later. A whole collection of similarly sleek styles followed this fall.
"The core values of our house are still important here, so the collection has elements of sustainability—environmental issues are important to us," McCartney says about the new bridal collection, called Made with Love. "But it was also important for me to really take the opportunity to design a wedding day look that fits into a woman's wardrobe in a more effortless way, something that didn't feel so alien to any other day in the bride's life. I wanted to create something that felt naturally sexy and naturally confident while staying modern."
And she did. The collection includes capes, Queen Anne necklines, cutouts and long sleeves on the type of sophisticated, minimalist silhouettes McCartney often creates for red carpet moments. (For the non-betrothed or non-traditional brides, several styles come in scarlet, too.) "I think it's important to reflect on your memories of that day, to look back at photographs, and to feel that they haven't dated in any way," McCartney says. "It should feel as fresh as the day itself when you look back after 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years of marriage."
But that's not to say that her collection lacks those feminine flourishes. "Having a sense of delicacy and a level of romance was also important," McCartney says. "That comes across in the silhouettes and in the materials that we've used: a luxurious sustainable viscose, and modern versions of traditional couture fabrics like lace and chiffon."
It's not just the dress shapes that make her collection modern. McCartney's documented dedication to sustainability has anointed her a leader in an industry that has been behind the consumer in tackling environmental issues. Many modern brides want an eco-friendly or green wedding; McCartney is positioned ahead of other designers in appealing to these conscientious women.
"We now source all of our viscose in the ready-to-wear collection from sustainably managed and certified forests in Sweden," McCartney says. "All of the viscose in our supply chain is traceable. I don't believe in sacrificing style for sustainability—our viscose feels luxurious while remaining responsible."
It's the combination of elegant design and cultural awareness that attracts so many intelligent women to McCartney's orbit and dresses. At that same royal wedding, Amal Clooney showed up in a marigold version of the collection's Rose column gown, albeit with a shortened hem. And after her wedding this September, Gwyneth Paltrow hit the reception dance floor in a Stella McCartney jumpsuit.
"I'm so proud and honored that I've had such notable women come to me and ask me to design something for their big day," McCartney confides. Presently, the designer has a lot to feel proud about.