Stella passed on a question about her favourite menswear designers, admitting she’s “not as up to speed as I could be”. Instead, she says she’ll “focus in on what feels right, and it’s very instinctive’” Case in point, the portrait of her father, Paul, hanging in her spacious headquarters in one of the dodgier corners of Notting Hill. “That man has been a big influence; and The Beatles and music in general. Just because of my heritage and being British.”
Growing up as pop royalty, the male dressers who shaped McCartney’s childhood were a little more colourful than those of your average girl raised in east Sussex state schools during the 1970s and ’80s. Not many people can say their dad’s wardrobe inspired a generation of rebellious male mod dressers in the 1960s, or reminisce about house visits from Michael Jackson. “Yeah, but when Michael came round he didn’t have one glove on and a rhinestone T-shirt. He was just Michael,” she points out, an admirable attempt at trivialising the incredible. “I was always fascinated with his hair because he had this oil in it,” she digresses. “But yeah, I definitely had a madly varied roomful of people surrounding me growing up, and, juxtaposing that, I had fairly normal people in there. I think that has influenced how I approach my work.”
One of those who started out normal was Orlando Bloom, a teenage friend who happened to become one of the world’s biggest actors. “I’ve known him forever and we always stayed friends. As both of our careers skyrocketed, we became totally fabulous and now we’re fabulous friends,” McCartney says, deadpan wit intact. While Bloom, now 40, found fame playing elves and pirates, McCartney, now 45, was conquering fashion, taking the helm at Chloé in 1997 just two years after graduating from Central Saint Martins and then establishing her own brand with Kering in 2001.
Her empire, which includes 51 stores worldwide, has flown the flag for sustainable fashion since day one, an ethos her men’s line now follows: no fur, no leather, and heavy use of organic and regenerated materials. When she debuted the collection for spring/summer 2017 in November last year, dedicating it to ‘the men in my life’ and hiring Abbey Road Studios for the launch, Bloom was quick to adopt her quirky, bohemian men’s offering.
“He was naturally drawn to it and it suits him,” she says, “as he’s quite hippy at times and not so tailored. It makes sense with his mix of Britishness and West Coast surfer dude.” Distilled into key wardrobe pieces, the Stella McCartney menswear line epitomises the new wave of amalgamated formal and streetwear, with nods to her British-American upbringing courtesy of her late mother Linda McCartney’s New York roots. (Aside from Bloom, early fans include Harry Styles and Pharrell Williams.) There are distorted classics like a jacket in Prince of Wales check that’s been cropped and hooded, or the upbeat, rather political slogan M+NMO, meaning ‘Members and Non-Members Only’, knitted into homespun-style tops.
“Stella’s one of the most authentic people I’ve ever known,” says Bloom. “What I love about her new menswear is the street-style elements of the daywear, which pull in the best of Brit and global youth culture but then add her touch of sophistication. Her suits have both that Savile Row quality and unique detailing that set them apart.”
It would have been easy, McCartney says, simply to draw on the formal tailoring education she experienced with Savile Row’s Edward Sexton while doing an apprenticeship there during her time at Saint Martins, but she chose instead to shift things up. “I don’t know if the man I want to dress is having to wear a suit every day. I’m not sure that’s modern,” she argues. “When was the last time you wore a suit? I want to encourage men to wear one because they want to, not because they’re going to get a picture of themselves taken in the street at a fashion show, or for work, or at a wedding or a funeral.”
Conquering the British menswear market – which is predicted to grow by 22.5 per cent in the next four years to reach sales of £17.3bn thanks to a new generation of natural-born male shoppers – isn’t a bad base to build from. “It’s a very British thing to have this irreverence and be a bit sarcastic,” she says of her approach, referencing again the boldness of Paul McCartney’s Sgt Pepper uniform – now reincarnated in his daughter’s children’s collection – contrasted by the dressy tunics he still wears, which have often been custom-made by her.
“I look at what he and my mum wore and people around me at the time, who happened to be well-known artists, and I feel maybe men have lost a little bit of that eccentricity,” McCartney says. “It’s become a little more segmented. There’s the “fashionista” or the really conservative person. How do you encourage the two to meet?” Ask Bloom and the reality might be closer than you think. “What social media around the world has done for men is to allow them to embrace their own sense of style, something which wasn’t always the case,” he says. “I think men now see through fashion as a uniform and are embracing the fact it can represent who they are, and how they wish to be.”