Animal Advocate Stella McCartney: Cruelty-Free Fashion, Meat Free Mondays & More

In our continuing recognition of Animal Cruelty Prevention Month, we're taking a look at the fashion-forward, animal-friendly inspirations of designer Stella McCartney.
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Stella McCartney Photo

Stella McCartney was raised to respect animals and the natural world, which has had a big impact on her choices as a designer and a mom. (Photo: s_bukley/

Stella McCartney is the daughter of a Beatle, a fashion designer, the head of a luxury brand, mother to four children — and an animal advocate. Find out how her commitment to animal rights and the environment is an especially important part of her identity.

A Family Tradition

Stella McCartney was born in 1971, the second child of Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman McCartney. Growing up as the daughter of a wealthy and world-famous pop star, she met musicians, artists, and other celebrities of all kinds — and her friends today include names like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Moss. However, another side of her upbringing gave her an early interest in animal advocacy and sustainable living.

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Stella with her parents Paul and Linda McCartney in 1974.

When the younger McCartneys were still children, Paul and Linda moved the family to an organic farm in Sussex where they raised sheep, grew vegetables in the garden, and learned to ride horseback. Linda was also a vegetarian who often spoke out in favor of animal rights. She published two vegetarian cookbooks and created a line of frozen vegetarian meals, long before the health-food movement really became popular.

Looking back at her family’s influence, McCartney said in a 2009 interview with The Guardian, “The beliefs I was raised with – to respect animals and to be aware of nature, to understand that we share this planet with other creatures – have had a huge impact on me.”

Cruelty-Free Fashion

McCartney had already interned for several fashion houses by the time she enrolled at the London art and design school Central Saint Martins. She graduated in 1995 and her career quickly took off. In 1997 she was appointed creative director of Parisian fashion house Chloé, succeeding designer Karl Lagerfeld; in 2001, she developed her own luxury brand label.

McCartney’s devotion to animals began to appear in her work: her Spring 2001 collection for Chloé included many garments printed with images of horses, in a tribute to her mother’s love of riding. (Linda died of breast cancer in 1998.) Next, McCartney made her new namesake brand into an opportunity for putting her animal-rights beliefs into practice. 

Most importantly, and in an unusual decision for a major fashion house, the Stella McCartney brand does not use leather or fur in its clothing or accessories. Citing the statistic that 50 million animals are killed every year for bags and shoes, McCartney instead directs her company to find or develop new eco-friendly materials like faux leathers. The brand also uses as much organic cotton as possible in its collections.

Stella McCartney Photo

In an interview on her website, McCartney describes her approach to sustainable fashion:  “I believe in creating pieces that aren’t going to get burnt, that aren’t going to landfills, that aren’t going to damage the environment. For every piece in every collection I am always asking what have we done to make this garment more sustainable and what else can we do. It is a constant effort to improve.” (

In addition, all Stella McCartney boutiques are operated in an eco-friendly manner. They have wood flooring taken from sustainably managed forests and antique furniture purchased at local auctions or shops. They are powered by renewable energy like wind power. The stores’ biodegradable shopping bags are made from corn, and employees use hybrid cars for business travel.

As McCartney said in a 2014 interview with Women’s Wear Daily, “For me it’s all one thing, because my business is based on these kind of ethics. It’s a very holistic approach for me, it’s the way I live my life and it’s my message. We’re trying to have just a little more conscious consumption.”

Meat-Free Menus and More

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Stella with her sister Mary, father Paul and brother James (not pictured) launched Meat Free Mondays.

Another way that McCartney brings attention to animal rights is through the promotion of non-meat diets. The whole McCartney family (including siblings Mary and James, plus dad Paul) worked together to launch the Meat Free Mondays initiative in 2009 and published an accompanying vegetarian cookbook, “The Meat Free Monday Cookbook,” in 2012. In 2014 they teamed up with Gregory Barker, the Climate Advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron, to encourage people to eat meat-free meals one day per week in order to reduce meat-farming’s impact on the environment.

McCartney has filmed anti-fur and anti-leather public service announcements for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; her business has also extended its reach by supporting charities like World Wildlife Fund, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and AnimalsAsia. In 2009 McCartney was recognized for her support of environmental causes by the Natural Resources Defence Council. She has also been named the first-ever Green Designer of the Year by the Accessories Council.

A Natural Lifestyle

McCartney has been married to publisher and creative consultant Alasdhair Willis since 2003. The couple has four children: two sons (Miller and Beckett) and two daughters (Bailey and Reiley). The family lives at its London home during the week and spends most weekends at their private estate in the county of Wilshire. Their 400-acre property includes a manor house that they’ve restored, as well as flower and vegetable gardens, a small flock of sheep, and horses. 

In the countryside, McCartney can raise her children just as she was raised, in close contact with nature and animals. Her rural hideaway also inspires her ongoing concern for the environment; as she said in a 2014 interview, “It’s all one thing to me. I ride my horse and I’ll notice a tree coming into bud and connect that with the weather. . .it’s a natural mindset for me.”