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Stella McCartney Sounds Off On The Fashion Industry’s Sustainability Issues

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Stella McCartney has long distinguished herself in the luxury fashion space for building a proudly ethical company. "We are the world’s first and only vegetarian luxury brand," reads her brand's website, detailing its commitment to never dealing with leathers, skins, feathers, or fur in its popular collections. McCartney's eponymous label is transparent about its sourcing and manufacturing practices and its strong support of ethical trade. The designer isn't simply providing lip service about these causes: McCartney has been outspoken about the fashion industry's wastefulness, even in the high-end market, and why it's a major problem. She's got some staggering statistics to prove it: In a new video for environmental non-profit organisation Canopy, McCartney issues a call to action for tangible change.

"Up to 100 million trees can be cut down a year solely for the use of fabric," Stella McCartney says as she narrates in the clip, which premiered at the U.N.'s Global Compact Leaders Summit in New York last week. This statistic — which is expected to rise, according to Canopy — refers to the making of semi-synthetic materials, such as rayon, which is made from cellulose that's extracted from wood pulp.

Canopy first introduced a style-focused campaign in 2013, partnering with brands and retailers to develop and integrate forest-friendly practices into their businesses. Canopy looks specifically at fabric fibres, particularly those used in the rayon and viscose materials that are so prevalent in fast fashion. McCartney began working with the non-profit in 2014, the Guardian reported, and has been committed to finding alternatives to these environmentally damaging materials for her namesake brand by 2017. So far, Canopy has rallied some pretty powerful players in the global fashion industry — 65 brands total — to consider their footprints, including Arcadia Group (the parent company of Topshop and Topman), ASOS, H&M, Inditex (which owns Zara), and more.

Despite many retailer-led initiatives to recycle old garments into new collections, the consumption rate in the fashion biz is staggering, thus producing a lot of environmental waste. There's also the reported human cost of this cycle, which many of the companies that have signed Canopy's pledge have allegedly participated in.

Still, there's certainly interest in conscious fashion: Nowadays, billing a brand as sustainable, where you can trace every step of production, is a selling point for companies and consumers alike. (The rise of, and buzz surrounding, brands like Zady, Reformation, and Everlane in the U.S. certainly speaks to that.) As such, Canopy Style's call to action isn't solely for the makers — it's also for those buying fashion. Consumers can make an impact by spending mindfully. In order to rally more support, the non-profit has made resources available to shoppers about brands with forest-friendly practices.

Having McCartney and other notable players in the fashion industry as allies gives these issues a spotlight they might not have otherwise, according to Nicole Rycroft, founder and executive director of Canopy.

"Having the support of iconic champions like [McCartney] and 65 leading brands has catalysed viscose producers responsible for 75% of global rayon supply to commit to safeguard endangered forests," Rycroft said in a statement. Hopefully, more designers will make like McCartney on the sustainability front, sooner rather than later.
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