McCartney became interested in designing clothes as a youth. At age thirteen, she designed her first jacket. Three years later, she interned for Christian Lacroix, working on her first haute couture collection, honing her skills working for Edward Sexton, her father’s Savile Row tailor for a number of years.
She studied her foundation at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication, followed by Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins in the early 1990s: she graduated in 1995. Her graduation collection was modelled by friends and supermodels Naomi Campbell, Yasmin Le Bon and Kate Moss – for free – at the graduation runway show. The collection was shown to a song penned by her famous father, called “Stella May Day”.
A lifelong vegetarian, McCartney does not use any leather or fur in her designs. The Guardian described her in 2015 as a “consistent and vocal” supporter of animal rights. She supports PETA. Some of McCartney’s designs have text that elaborates on her “no animal” policy; for example, one of her jackets for Adidas says, “suitable for sporty vegetarians” on the sleeve. A pair of her vinyl and ultrasuede boots were marketed specifically as being vegan-friendly, although her use of oil-based synthetics still raised ecological concerns.
In 2001, McCartney launched her own fashion house under her name in a joint venture with Gucci Group (now Kering) and showed her first collection in Paris. McCartney now operates 17 freestanding stores in locations including Manhattan’s Soho, London’s Mayfair, LA’s West Hollywood, Paris’ Palais Royal, Barcelona’s Passeig de Gracia and Milan, and recently opened doors in Rome, Miami, and Houston.
In 2003, McCartney launched her first perfume, Stella. In January 2007, McCartney launched a skincare line, CARE. The 100% organic line includes seven products, from cleansing milk made with lemon balm and apricot to green tea and linden blossom floral water.
In 2008, she launched a new lingerie line. In November 2010, the Stella McCartney Kids collection was launched for newborns and children up to age 12.
In June 2012, McCartney invited the Soul Rebels Brass Band to perform at her 2013 spring fashion presentation hosted at the New York Marble Cemetery in New York City on 11 June 2012. Other guests invited to the party included Anne Hathaway, Jim Carrey, Anna Wintour, Annie Leibovitz, Lauren Hutton, Amy Poehler, Solange Knowles, P’Trique, Greta Gerwig, and André Leon Talley. Also in 2012, McCartney was part of the book “The Sustainable Fashion Handbook”.
In November 2016, McCartney launched her first menswear collection. The collection is made up of many athleisure, pyjama-like casual outfits. McCartney said her father had provided inspiration for the collection.
In April 2018, after 17 years of partnership with Kering, Stella McCartney has decided to purchase the fashion giant’s stake in her company and take the reins of her global fashion empire. McCartney was the designer of Meghan Markle’s wedding reception dress. She later created 46 replicas of the dress, 23 in lily white and 23 in onyx black, for her Made With Love capsule collection each priced at £3,500.
On 15 October 2018, Stella McCartney announced the launch of Stella McCartney Cares Foundation – a charity dedicated to breast cancer. The cause is really close to McCartney since she lost her mother to the disease in 1998. The charity will donate 1,000 of the brand’s Louis Listening post-operative mastectomy compression bras to women undergoing breast cancer treatment.