When the opportunity arose to spend a week as an ‘intern’ at Stella Mccartney (I won it at a charity auction for breast cancer – how could I turn it down!)
Turning a lucky ticket into a worthwhile and rewarding experience was my goal and selecting to work with the tricky subject of sustainability in their head office proved to be a memorable, educational and fun experience that I will never forget.
At Homebody we have always tried to ensure our products are eco friendly,so it seemed a great fit to learn from a brand that have put environmental issues at the very top of their priority list and so I set myself the task of working with their sustainability team for one week - not great on paper I’ll admit but actually fascinating!
Pic 1. Sustainability team Pic 2. Talk with Stella Pic 3. Meghan Markle's wedding Dress
I am so nervous about working in a strange office – this feels WEIRD!, - its been a long time since I worked in a big formal office and I was not sure whether to make the tea or learn how to switch on their computer (not easy!)
When I enter, it is mind blowing…the size and scale and beauty of this very cool white building off the beat and track.
I am met and was ushered by the very lovely Sally and then meet her team – the most wonderful and clever people who are so interested in sustainability and clearly passionate about what they do.
As transparency is a big deal with Stella, it was important that we cleared up any concerns and I put everyone at ease.
We sat down straight away and had a good chat about Homebody – a brief bio; our fabric; where it is sourced; our factory – they grilled me to see how sustainable homebody actually is, and I was relieved to hear we passed with flying colours!
I was completely up front about having my own label and they really put me over the hot coals about where our fabric is made how its made and our factory as well and made me aware that over the years we have steadily built up a completely sustainable business.
My first day was fantastic as I learnt that the brand’s approach to helping our environment really does go deep – even into the kitchen where we all enjoy a beautiful chef prepared meal vegan of course and completely free to employers of the business (loved that!)
Today, my project was to research other like minded ethical luxury brands and compare them to Stella – as they were mainly US based – I didn’t know them and it was really fascinating to see how other companies are approaching this hot topic and I learnt a lot!, particularly about ‘greenwashing’ (when you say you do the ethical thing, but actually its just words that mean nothing!)
Cannot wait for day two!
Planning the wardrobe is exhausting particularly as its about 90 degrees!
Even though I did get a bit lost, on route, the team, when I arrived were so incredibly nice and supportive as they watched me go to battle with their high tech equipment, never laughing at me only with me!
With four dedicated people handling sustainability and all environmental subject matter throughout the business, it is refreshing to see how deep the philosophy goes.
I was initially tasked with looking at how other luxury brands are tackling this tricky subject.
I found that many are talking the talk but not walking the walk!
In other words, there are many brands who say they are sustainable businesses, but look a little deeper and yes they are selling products that Stella wouldn’t touch and not providing that all important transparency, that to be truly eco friendly , the public need to see.
While I filtered through the various documents during the afternoon, and listened in on a conversation between one of my team and a research company who were taking us through the lifecycle of various meterials the brand is using, including yarn and metals, I was astounded at the level of information they expect their suppliers to share as they try to understand what the levels of oil or the carbon footprint is on the various products they make.
As I finished the day, it struck me that this opportunity is teaching me so much, not only about how we can learn and always improve our efforts, but also the time and dedication it takes to make this business totally green
Again cannot wait till day three!
(I have asked to meet Stella – let’s see what happens!)
The day began when I was invited to the in house sample sale – how can I refuse a sale!
Loved it then off to head office for yet another inspiring day.
It is day 3 and I’m finally grasping the huge hi tech computers , it seems I know how to log in!
With my review of sustainable luxury brands and how they are doing under my belt, I was very kindly allowed to listen in on various conversations relating to sustainable issues – fantastic.
Sally was also kind enough to take me on a tour of their beautiful design studios throughout the building.
The one thing that strikes me from working here, is the commitment and passion that everyone shows to the brand. The team have been incredibly generous, kind and most importantly, transparent in their information and sharing openly how they work. It just feels like a relaxed but commited environment full of great women with a few boys scattered in!
After yet another amazing lunch freshly cooked and vegan of course, I was sent an email inviting me to hear Stella talk about their new store in Bond street. .
Then it was to shadow the team in a fabrics meeting with their supplier.
Hearing how this brand do not like stretch or shine, it struck me that we have always had a very different aesthetic and one that relies heavily on mixing comfort and style together – I believe it is possible!
After that,I rushed down to Bond street to meet Susie as the team had very kindly allowed me to bring a friend to the talk and who better than my partner Susie.
Hearing Stella talk about the construction of her latest store, the different meterials used and why she chose them, really helped us all appreciate the amount of thought and work that has gone into the project – awesome and beautiful.
Crazy to think that the rocks that sit like an island in the middle of the ground floor come from her parents home and loved hearing the crazy jazz music was created by her dad and that oxygen is pumped into the store as you enter , keeping you refreshed as you step out of the urban fog of Bond Street.
Stella spoke so well and it was lovely to see her with her young family – it can’t be easy!
After the talk, there was time for a quick and much need Vodka tonic with Susie when we caught up with urgent homebody business, and Susie rushed back to Cambridge and I went to bed dreaming about the top floor of this exquisite boutique with its hidden gems.
Thursday the day is filled with gaining as much information on how other companies are handling sustainability - better; worse what can be learnt from other brands. I then was invited to have a chat with their head of department Claire, and it was great to have the opportunity to find out more about both the fabrics we use and the fabrics out there that don’t harm the environment.
When Claire asked me what this week has meant to her, it was embarrassing – I actually got emotional- perhaps because of the transparency SM have offered me and the support, but it also could have been because of that feeling when you know you are moving forwards in a new way that just feels right.
The sense that the knowledge I have gained during this week of shadowing the sustainability team cannot go to waste and the changes that knowledge will bring to our brand, with transparency traceability and a sense of buoyancy of knowing what our brand stands for – not just comfort and effortless style in and out of the home but also that caring for the environment is a core value both Susie and I hold dear to our hearts.
The final day has arrived of a great week and when I arrived at what has been my desk for a week, it dawned on me just how life changing and even brand changing this experience has been.
I have learnt so much not only about sustainability but also how grateful I am to have a business that I believe in and that I believe has a great future in the world we live in today – not just because it is wonderfully soft, but also because we are making clothes in the most sustainable manner possible, and I’m incredibly proud of that!
Looking at Stella’s competition of luxury exo friendly labels, she is a clear leader, with a team of four spearheading her very focused approach to sustainability with a campaign to turn every material she uses green and to understand where every thread comes from – a huge task with many pitfalls.
My final lunch was as spectacular as always and the queue just as fascinating as I watched the Stella girls in their wedgey shoes make the clothes come alive with Stellerness.
The final meeting I had was with their menswear team – another moment for reflection and consideration as I pondered our approach to comfort and fabrics that we have naturally taken for so long.
I ended the day with a moleskin notebook filled with ideas and tips that will help us move forwards not just in sustainability but with our brand and with a sense of confidence coming from knowing we are doing something positive and life enhancing.
Finally, the experience taught me that no matter what age we are, to always be open to new approaches and opportunities – it was a week I’ll never forget!
A huge thank you to Claire, Sally, and all the sustainability team at Stella Mccartney