“Stella’s style has been influential because she is her customer,” Tom Ford once said of his younger colleague. And she obviously agrees: “I’m always designing what I want to wear,” she told Vogue in 2004.
What McCartney has gravitated to over the years is a mix of Savile Row tailoring (perhaps because she apprenticed with her father’s suit-maker, Edward Sexton, while a student), filmy lingerie, some sexy footwear—and a bit of slouch. As the daughter of a Beatle, McCartney might be rock royalty, but neither she nor her clothing has ever stood on ceremony. “It’s not about what it looks like in the studio or on the runway,” the designer told WWD. “It’s what it looks like on a real person that matters. That isn’t easy, but it’s what’s fun.”
McCartney was trained at Central Saint Martins, before being cherry-picked by the French house of Chloé in 1997 to succeed Karl Lagerfeld (a decision about which the Kaiser was volubly critical). After proving her chops at Chloé, she launched her own line, under her own name, in a fifty-fifty deal with Kering in 2001. From the start, her playful irreverence was infectious. At a party thrown to introduce her work at H&M, a movable feast was served not by waiters but by toy trains running around a track in an old redbrick schoolhouse. The invitation for the Spring 2007 show was a specially created Little Miss Stella storybook by Adam Hargreaves. And McCartney’s models habitually walk the runway accessorized with a smile.