Fashioning a Sustainable Future: Stella McCartney’s Rewilding Journey

–by kl dunn

Fall ’23 Stella had horses on the runway. Now she’s helping bring them back to the land.

Operating in a space where the actual cost has long been tossed to the wayside in the ceaseless drive for progress and despoiling of the natural world in the name of profit, whenever a company puts the planet’s health first, the way forward opens up.

What is Rewilding and why is it important for our environment?

The air and waterways, vastly different eco-systems and landscapes have long been subjected to, damaged by human presence. Rewilding, an elegant concept, asks if we’ll ever know the lush paradise that our country once was before systemic and extractive devastation. Can our wounded lands be reclaimed by nature? If we return parts of the land to “the wild”, reforested lands will perform natural carbon capture and “protect native species critical to (the planet and) our survival.

Stella McCartney has an ongoing interest in rewilding – this reinstating of natural processes and allowing Mother Earth to rebalance herself – and how it can rebuild the planet’s natural support system, reverse biodiversity loss and fight against the climate crisis.

She has now expanded far beyond her own garden. A recent collaboration with Rewilding America Now (a non-profit initiative to preserve North American wild horses and lands), shows that fashion with a capital F can and should be a loud, leading voice in sustainable practices.

When her Fall ’23 collection opened with seven equine models on the runway, the optics were radical. “There is so much leather, fur, and feathers on these runways, particularly in winter. I just wanted to show that you could show animals in a different way” she stated.

She then followed up less than a month ago at Paris fashion week by hosting 21 stalls of sustainability – from Linda McCartney veggie burgers to openwork-knit summer dresses made out of renewable kelp (yarn by Keel Labs, makers of Kelsun yarn). So, from seaweed to biodegradable sequins (Radiant Matter), it’s becoming clear that the change is here.

Back to the horses

The prompt for looking back at McCartney’s work over the last year specifically is that it celebrates the ongoing and expanding collaborations that are actively changing storylines. Rewilding America wants to purchase 55 miles of land in Birch Creek, Idaho. Their founder, Manda Kalimian says, “We are going to prove to the world that wild horses here in the United States are truly an integral component of the natural system. They are keystone species that are going to help us build grasslands to sequester carbon and be the leader in climate change initiatives”.

By partnering with Stella, they’re hoping that the force of fashion for good will become a bridge between caused-based commerce and conservation. And with a portion of the proceeds from the event going towards the land purchase, the message of style and sustainability becomes more entangled. We are what we wear – it’s a radical thought that the rewilding of the American West, the restoration of the land and its natural creatures could partially come from something as small as where you buy your clothes.

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