Stella McCartney embraces roots, advises animal activists

A model wears a creation for Stella McCartney ready-to-wear spring/summer 2019 fashion collection presented in Paris, Monday, Oct.1, 2018. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Stella McCartney presented her first Paris Fashion Week collection since taking full control of her eponymous design house this year by buying the 50 percent stake owned by luxury product giant Kering

PARIS — An on-form Stella McCartney presented her first Paris Fashion Week collection since taking full control of her eponymous design house this year by buying the 50 percent stake owned by luxury giant Kering.

The British-American designer used her new independence to go back to her artistic roots on the runway Monday and spoke to The Associated Press about animal rights in the industry and fashion's fledgling steps to go fur-free.

Here are some Fashion Week highlights for Spring 2019:

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INDEPENDENT MCCARTNEY GOES BACK TO ROOTS

Stella McCartney did what she does best, delivering a show at Paris Fashion Week that brimmed with joyful, laid-back styles.

Fluid silhouettes met sportswear, while loose knitwear was raw and deconstructed. Oversized "boyfriend blazers" were conceived in sustainable viscose and lightweight linen.

The spring palette — washed-out neon colors and "dirty pastels" — felt as fresh as the funky soundtrack for the show inside Paris' lofty opera house. So did the wallpaper florals on a swimwear-jumpsuit hybrid.

"The bold and the feminine ... the quintessential ... the classically Stella," is how the house described the ready-to-wear show.

But was reasserting her aesthetic identity a way to express her new-found financial independence? McCartney said "no," —at least not intentionally.

"It's not really connected with (the buy-out), though it might be in a subliminal way," the designer told The Associated Press after the show. "It's to do with reflecting."

If vigorous applause was anything to go by, the show was certainly a hit. Guests included actress Isabelle Huppert and model Alexa Chung,

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FASHION'S FUR-FREE FUTURE?

In September, London became the first fashion capital to go fur-free after the British Fashion Council said all designers on the calendar would ditch using fur in their shows.

Still, some fashion labels have been accused of hypocrisy for using materials such as python skin, despite the fur ban.

The 47-year-old McCartney, a prominent vegan and animal rights activist who uses neither leather nor fur, advised purists to praise the progress, though acknowledged that the ban on fur was "just a start."

"There is this human instinct to put people down when they're doing something good. Anything is better than nothing. It's a positive thing," McCartney told the AP.

The real test, she said, is whether the sans-fur stance will extend to winter collections.

McCartney said she has seen a marked shift in the willingness of industry insiders to "have a conversation" about the ethics and economy of giving up materials from animals.

"They didn't when I started. I was ridiculed, really," she said.

McCartney said a bigger fight will be getting labels to do without leather, which comes from billions of animals being "killed for fashion."

Although Paris is far from going in London's direction, McCartney sees hope elsewhere.

"I think that Los Angeles is a little more exciting when they say they won't buy fur," she said. "Essentially, you have to believe in it and feel it. Otherwise, it's just a fashion trend."

McCartney's late American mother, Linda McCartney, who died in 1998, was a prominent animal rights activist.

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YVES SAINT LAURENT MUSEUM

To coincide with Paris Fashion Week, the year-old Yves Saint Laurent Museum is inaugurating a temporary exhibit devoted to the late French designer's love for Asia.

The show, "Yves Saint Laurent: Dreams of the Orient," gathers from the museum's archives some 50 haute couture looks inspired by India, China and Japan. The pieces are displayed with Asian art objects from the collection of the Guimet Museum of Asian Art, also located in Paris.

The world's largest continent featured prominently in the fashion designs and perfumes of Saint Laurent, who died in 2008.

In one of his first eponymous collections, the couturier explored Imperial India, with a particular fascination on its coats, saris and draping. Imperial China was the creative starting point in fall of 1977, the same year the Asian-inspired perfume Opium by YSL debuted.

The perfume would become a huge seller, but initially caused a scandal in the United States. Its New York launch party on a boat named the Peking offended some Chinese-Americans.

The museum is located in the former couture house where Saint Laurent worked from 1974 to 2002.

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SACAI DECONSTRUCTS

What do ponchos, tuxedos, floral gowns, men's coats, tartans and sandals have in common?

Normally not a lot — but Sacai threw them all into the creative mix at its accomplished ready-to-wear show in Paris that focused on deconstruction.

One of Japan's most lucrative fashion houses, Sacai has built a reputation for the quirky.

The first look set the collection's ambitions high — a surreal tuxedo shirt in on-trend white that was snipped away surreally and deconstructed into its component parts. Its shirt pockets seemed to have melted down into a mis-shaped skirt in a brilliant touch of design skill.

Elsewhere, a rifle green men's coat was turned into an off-kilter poncho, with the model's bangs swept to the side as if hit by a sudden gust of wind. An asymmetrical skirt with utilitarian eyelets looked also like it had been blown off course.

Sacai also explored the concept of overlay, using shapes and textures with myriad different garments, sometimes in the same look. It was great to watch.

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GIAMBATTISTA VALLI

It was a low-key affair for Italian designer Giambattista Valli, whose collection was a checklist of hot spring trends that seemed to lack a little soul.

Black and white — which has emerged at Fashion Week as the key color scheme for the 2019 season — appeared in droves. In the white corner: cleanly cut tailored jackets, a white column shirtdress and mini-dresses with girly-looking flounces.

Black saw a nice silk gown with exaggerated proportions in the arms and a fluttery 1970s vibe.

Florals and decorative motifs — somewhat the signature for the Italian designer — were also a key feature but didn't always hit the mark.

A floral silk mini-dress fanned out beautifully in the wide skirt and sported a voluminous, multilayered train. From the front it looked sublime, but from the side and back it was not the most flattering, with a mass of three-dimensional ripples.

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamson_K

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