Stella McCartney unveils her children's range for Gap
From The Sunday Times October 25, 2009 timesonline.co.uk
Stella McCartney unveils her children's range for Gap
Stella fans everywhere will be trying to squeeze into her hip new kids' collection
Stella and friends: from left, military jacket, £75; yellow pacamac, £40; grey dress, £80; pink cable knit dress, £50; pink silk dress, £40; grey cardigan, £40, all by Stella McCartney for Gap
You’ve got to not eat what you really want to eat, and you have to exercise.” Stella McCartney is sitting beside an untouched sandwich in a west London cafe, her unmade-up face glowing with health (she’s much prettier in the flesh than in photographs), explaining how she looks so good after popping out three kids in less than three years. “Even now, I exercise regularly, and I’ve still put on weight in the past few weeks. If I eat wheat, potatoes or rice, all the nice stuff, I just blow up. I’m O positive, which, apparently, is the meat-eating blood type — obviously not great for me.” Absolutely not — in fact, it’s a toss-up as to what McCartney is better known as: fashion designer or vegetarian. She needn’t worry, though: her soft, rounded figure has adapted well to motherhood; she looks neither starved nor overweight; and any new mum looking for clues on how to balance fashionista with family could take notes from McCartney’s style. Today, she is in trademark skinny jeans and tailored jacket, flats for the school run, heels in the handbag for the office. It’s a masterclass in easy chic.
McCartney, of course, has always had such a great aesthetic — just the right side of edgy, always wearable — and, like most women designers, she works with real bodies in mind. Her fan base is growing exponentially — sales for the last year have soared by 70%. As a reward, McCartney has given herself a 60% pay rise to £1.5m. Nice. For those of us who are not on such McCartneyesque pay packets, there is Stella on the high street — and that is where she really hits her stride. Her H&M line was greeted with a stampede four years ago, and the sportswear range she designs for Adidas is an unprecedented success.
Next month, she’s back again, this time at Gap with children’s wear, and although there’s plenty of well-thought-out kids’ stuff, there are also lots of her signature pieces — the sweater dress, the padded jacket, the jeans — all borrowed from her main line. “We’re a designer brand doing kids’ clothes, so surely you just want to take the key pieces and shrink them down.” (Those with extra-little figures might be able to squeeze into the larger sizes. “Trust me — I’m gonna have one of everything in 12,” McCartney says.)
It’s obvious children have been good for her. The impression you get of McCartney — always papped with a stern, unsmiling face; always banging on about meat, hunting and leather — is that she’s a bit of a bore. I first met her seven years ago and she was quite the Portobello ice queen. Today, she is soft, upbeat and enthused about everything. But success, a husband and children, you hope, would do that. So, what has she learnt from her sons, Miller, 4, and Beckett, 1, and two-year-old daughter, Bailey? “My little boy has just got to the stage where he has opinions. Halfway through production, my eldest started going, ‘I don’t want to wear that.’ And it was, like, bing, a light bulb went on in my head and I thought, ‘Back to the drawing board.’ I thought kids just wore what you told them to, don’t they? But now [Miller’s] that age, I thought, ‘Oh, no, I’ve got to rejig this.’” The collection goes from newborn to 12. “Basically, I’m doing three jobs here. I’m doing the blob, get it off, get it on, and chuck it in the washing machine. Then I’m doing, ‘I just want you to look cool and cute and be a mini-me.’ And then I’m doing, ‘I don’t want to wear that, that looks crap!’ And, you know, this is harder than I thought.”
Miller, then, was given a choice between superheroes and robots, and he opted for robots — cue a cool black-and-white graphic-print tee. Bailey, apparently, was very handy with the monster drawings for the boys’ pants (the girls get the days of the week, just like the grown-up lingerie line), and the leopard-face prints went down well with both.
She says she dresses her children in “a complete mixture of high end, middle and low end”. “It was more sporadic, more things and bits that I liked. Miller always wants to wear the Red Nose Day T-shirt” — McCartney did one of her Comic Relief tees this year using Beatles photographs — “but maybe that’s because it’s grandad. It’s funny: Bailey, she wears hers, and she had it on the other day, and said, ‘I don’t like this.’ And Miller went, ‘Don’t say that, that will hurt Mummy’s feelings. Mummy made that.’ If I tell them I made it, they’re nicer about it.”
One obvious winner in the collection is the tutu. The little girl I showed it to (4, addicted to fluoro-pink and Angelina Ballerina) refused to take it off, even though it’s in a tasteful, dusky tone. “At the moment, you can’t buy a nice pink at this price point. Why do you have to pay more for a halfway- decent pink? So I just thought, ‘You can have a nicer pink.’”
Even when little girls only want a pink that’s violent, tacky, disastrous?
“Well, they can just sod off, because they’re getting this one. My daughter loves pink, and ballerinas. ‘Pink’ was one of her first words, and I was, like, this is weird. Girls love pink. Why do they love pink? And then I realised, I am obsessed with a certain pink, I’ve always done my pink, every single one of my collections. I’m obsessed with fleshy, dirty, dusty pinks.” And does Bailey like that pink, or does she prefer a big pink? “I don’t know yet, I’m still fooling her into thinking I can dress her. She can buy nasty pinks when she gets her own cash. Wash the car, and you can buy your own pink.”
It’s a very refreshing range if, unlike Suri Cruise’s parents, you choke on a £500 Ralph Lauren coat, or spot that the £150 Marc Jacobs dress is going to last two minutes around a piece of birthday cake. McCartney’s line is all machine-washable (even the cashmere), tough, well priced and comfortable. The military jacket is gorgeous (“It’s a pirate coat!” screamed the three-year-old boy I tested it on — and indeed it is), and the navy overcoat is spot-on. And there are no dresses for babies. “Oh, they look so silly, little babies in dresses. It looks wrong.”
So, how does she cope with three children and a huge, growing business? She has a nanny, obviously, but not at weekends, and she takes the kids to school every day, as her office, home and the school are all just around the corner from each other. What about when she has to go to Paris? “Well, they come to the shows.”
“We run a crèche backstage — bring your kids,” pipes up her assistant. “They know that I make clothes,” McCartney adds. “ ‘Mummy makes dresses,’ that’s what I say. Basically, I’ve got good delegation now. That’s a lovely thing that I’ve arrived at, but I’m busy.”
I point out it must be nice for her to combine home and work like this, to be able to get all the different sides of her life together. “Does that happen all the time and you just don’t notice it until now — this age, with kids, thinking women?” she asks. “I’ve just turned 38. I’m no spring chicken, even though I think I am, and it’s amazing where you arrive in your head at this age.
“It’s different when you have kids. You find it more precious when things are right, because we’ve been trying so hard to make it work that when something does, it’s like a precious thing. I think you get more comfortable with yourself as you get older. Or maybe I’m just lucky.”