For designers, the most important moments to showcase the DNA of their brand come in the form of catwalks and campaigns. Where a 15-minute runway show reveals what’s to come, an international advertising campaign cements their vision into history. Some houses play it safe with glossy pictures, and others use the opportunities to create shock and awe. All of this may sound like good marketing, but the results can vary (and, in some cases, be banned). A recent example of this is British designer Stella McCartney’s latest campaign, which sees models wearing her high-dollar looks in the middle of a landfill. But did the lesson in contrast succeed in painting the pretty-ugly picture consumers need to see?
McCartney upheld her ongoing commitment to sustainability and reducing environmental waste by shooting her signature textures surrounded by garbage. That’s right: Against the tunes of Australian rapper Tkay Maidza, models can be seen bopping around a waste area, quite literally stepping over, frolicking in, and laying on heaps of smoking debris. In collaboration with artist Urs Fischer and shot by photographer Harley Weir, the designer brings literal light to issues like over consumption and single-use fashion.
“The idea we had with this campaign is to portray who we want to be and how we carry ourselves; our attitude and collective path,” McCartney explains in an official press release. “Our man-made constructed environments are disconnected and unaware of other life and the planet, which is why there is waste.” The release supports McCartney’s argument by adding their own data: 300 million tons of plastic is produced every year, half of which is for single-use, and 8 million tons of which is dumped into the oceans.
Founded in 2001, Stella McCartney has always considered itself a vegetarian label, never using fur, leather, skins, or feathers. After over a decade of expanding her ready-to-wear line into a lifestyle brand with a strong environmental conscious, McCartney has set somewhat of a standard across the industry, with several luxury brands and e-tailers following suit, including vocalizing her opinions on those who aren’t. And, after her introductions of fur-free fur, regenerated cashmere, sustainably-sourced viscose, and most recently, skin-free skin, it’s safe to say McCartney is a — if not the — pioneer for ethically-produced and environmentally harmless luxury fashion, with 53% of its womenswear business being made from sustainable materials.
For the sake of being provocative — and sparking a conversation that could stand to be a lot louder — McCartney’s latest visuals hit their mark. And past issue-based campaigns have, too. Earlier this year, Gucci debuted their pre-fall 2017 campaign that featured only models of color. Luxury gym Equinox’s global Pride campaign featured an alphabet of LGBTQ buzzwords and subcultures to spread awareness and acceptance. And, in 2015, British department store Selfridges lead the agender fashion charge, creating an entire project around the gender neutral movement, which has since been built into the store’s website. Of course, these are just a few of the designers who have done their part in making the voices of marginalized communities louder (and, unfortunately, sometimes exploiting them), but it’s worth cataloguing which brands stand for what.
McCartney’s decision to juxtapose her luxury-level designs against a backdrop of burgeoning fields of man-made waste is not only smart, but on par with her brand image, considering all of the aforementioned ethical and environmental efforts she’s made contributes to real, sustainable change. As far as how closely consumers will pay attention to the actual clothes in the collection — lest we remind you that there were actual clothes in the campaign, including renditions of McCartney’s signature tailoring, knitwear, and embroidery, alongside the latest Falabella Box, Stella Popper bag, and Sneak-Elyse runway sneaker — will be up to those customers who choose to buy into what she’s selling — cause and all.
While the current political climate can feel disheartening, visualizations and demonstrations of global concern, such as McCartney’s campaign, are a friendly reminder that the fashion industry is doing its part in fighting for the future and longevity of our planet. It’s clear McCartney’s head — and her heart — are in the right place.