Stella McCartney turns 40 with pride in her fashion career and driven by Sir Paul and Linda McCartney's passion

Stella McCartney turns 40 with pride in her fashion career and driven by Sir Paul and Linda McCartney's passion

by Dawn Collinson, Liverpool Echo Sep 12 2011

 Stella McCartney with her dad, PaulStella McCartney has defied critics to be a name in her own right. Dawn Collinson reports

WHEN baby Stella Nina arrived into the world on September 13, 1971, born by emergency caesarean, her dad had just launched a solo music career.
A year earlier he had quit the biggest band in the world.

As Paul McCartney sat outside the operating theatre, anxiously awaiting his child’s safe delivery, he prayed she would be carried “on the wings of an angel”.
And so, out of life and death trauma, the former Beatle gained a precious second daughter and an idea for his new group.
Stella Nina was named in loving honour of her two maternal great-grandmothers. Wings were named for her.
Tomorrow Stella, whose eponymous fashion label has defied sceptics, will celebrate her 40th birthday.
It is a landmark day not only for the designer herself but for the man who, from the day she was born, pledged to give her as normal a life as possible.
So normal, in fact, he recalls she had no awareness of his celebrity as a little girl. It wasn’t until they were out riding in Scotland one day she suddenly announced “Dad, you’re Paul McCartney aren’t you?” “Yes, darling” he replied, quite matter- of-factly, “but I’m daddy really.”
Brimming with pride, he watched as Stella graduated from the talent hotbed of London’s Central St Martin’s College.
And he has loyally occupied her front rows ever since. Just three years ago, he took up his favoured position as she chose his home – and his LIPA stage – to unveil a new collection as her contribution to Liverpool’s Capital of Culture.
Typically, he wore trainers and an oversized heart- shaped badge, emblazoned with the words ‘Stella’ and ‘L’pool’.
Unlike her father who was Allerton born and bred, Stella was raised in London, but she still clearly feels strong Liverpool bonds.
Back in 2003, she and her older sister Mary came here to visit the Linda McCartney cancer centre at the Royal.
They saw for the first time the £4m project dedicated to their mother, who lost a battle with breast cancer in 1998, aged just 56.

Moved by what had been achieved in Linda’s name, Stella – the youngest of the McCartneys’ girls – paid tribute to “the best mum in the world”.

Since then her support has remained unwavering, publicly lending her backing to Liverpool’s Field of Women event to raise money for the centre.

More often, though, Stella prefers her involvement to remain away from the limelight and with no A-list fanfare.
It is just as Linda and Paul always intended; the end game of their parental pact.

For Stella herself, it is a low key approach which she first adopted back in her schooldays (state, not private), when she endeavoured desperately to fit in.

She pinpointed fashion over music as a career to avoid accusations of riding on Paul and Linda’s coattails, only to find they followed her anyway.

“I didn’t want to go into what my parents did because that would have been a story and people would have talked about it,” she explains. “Also I liked fashion, but I used to get embarrassed about the fact I liked fashion. I’d sit at dinner parties and people would say to me ‘So what do you do?’ and I’d be like ‘oh, design!’.”

Even at the Central St Martins show, where her collection was modelled by friends Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Yasmin Le Bon, Stella says she was uncomfortable about the ensuing attention.
“The press was there because Paul McCartney’s daughter was having her degree show with Kate and Naomi. I didn’t foresee that happening, which was just pure stupidity,” she admits.

Fellow students were more cynical and there was a lot of resentment and jealousy aimed at her, especially as fellow college alumni included John Galliano and Alexander McQueen.

The criticism served only to focus her ambition. As one observer at the time remarked: “She soon learned that if she couldn’t be popular, she might as well get on with being successful.”
Success, of course, has come in spades for Stella since she left the college in 1995. High profile commissions have included Madonna’s wedding dress for her marriage to Guy Ritchie in 2000 as well as diffusion collections for Adidas, Puma, H&M and Baby Gap, and a cosmetics line

Less than two years after her graduation, she was appointed chief designer at the French ready-to-wear house, Chloe, following in the footsteps of Karl Lagerfeld. “Let's hope she's as gifted as her father,” commented a rather sniffy Herr Lagerfeld.

After triumphantly hanging a Union Flag out of her Paris window, her first collection teamed lacy petticoat skirts with fine tailoring and was well received by critics. She went on to produce a signature collection with appliqu├ęd silk motifs inspired by Liverpool-born artist George Stubbs.

In 2001, Stella resigned from Chloe to enter into a joint venture with Gucci, leaving her friend, former classmate and first assistant Phoebe Philo to take over the reins.

Philo’s tenure was considered by fashion commentators to have eclipsed her predecessor’s but Stella refused to be drawn into a rivalry.

“I’m not a hugely bitter person, it’s not in my character,” she explains. “I was a bit like ‘mmm, wish that had been me’, like anyone would be, but Phoebe was my friend. I was happy for her.”

It is a response which, say friends of the designer, is characteristically generous.

Domenico De Sole, boss of the Gucci group when Stella was signed, recalls how she would make the tea during meetings.

“We have a huge facility in Italy that makes ready-to-wear,” he adds. “Everybody would come to tell me how much they enjoyed working with Stella and how gracious and kind she was. I’m not talking about the CEO of the operation, I’m talking about the seamstresses, the people in the shop.”

When her down-to-earth attitude was commented on, Stella simply shrugged and replied: “Why wouldn’t I be nice? My mum and dad were kind of famous for being nice.”

Now, after tensions surrounding Paul’s ill-fated marriage to Heather Mills, she and her dad remain closer than ever. A devout vegetarian and animal rights campaigner like both her parents, she is keen to live up to the family legacy.

“I grew up with a name in my life and I know the importance of that name,” she says.

Of course, Stella doesn’t just carry the McCartney title these days. Since her marriage to publisher Alasdhair Willis in 2003, she has added an extra surname and their four children all have his.

But with her dad her biggest ally in and out of the spotlight she will always be a McCartney at heart. Although, even she can be caught in awe of the ex-Beatle.

“I think, oh my God, he’s one of the few living icons. I’m struck by that quite often, but not in an obsessed way,” she laughs. “I mean, he’s my dad, it would be weird if I was like ‘oh wow’ all the time. But I’m not blind. I am incredibly proud

From The Liverpool Echo

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