Why This Designer Shot Her Fashion Campaign in a Landfill

Runway fashion designer Stella McCartney is striving to combat the planet's growing waste problem. McCartney is integrating eco-friendly elements into her clothing and releasing photos aimed at raising awareness. 


May 26 2019, Updated 3:28 p.m. ET

The fashion industry is often stereotyped as being just about glitz and glamour, but for runway fashion designer Stella McCartney, it has recently become all about waste. The designer, who has long been concerned with the problems of global waste and overconsumption, recently announced that she would be incorporating more eco-friendly materials into her clothing lines. McCartney also released a series of fashion photos highlighting the global waste problem, with beautifully-dressed models posing alongside piles of garbage at landfill sites. 

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The photos were a collaborative effort between McCartney, photographer Harley Weir and artist Urs Fischer. It makes sense to tackle waste awareness with eye-catching imagery, since, according to McCartney, much of the world's waste problem is caused by an "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" mindset. "Our man-made constructed environments are disconnected and unaware of other life and the planet, which is why there is waste," McCartney explained.

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Of course, awareness alone isn't enough to affect widespread change, and McCartney seems well aware of this fact. In addition to partnering with artists and photographers, McCartney has joined forces with Parley for the Oceans, the same environmental organization that famously created Adidas sneakers from recycled ocean waste, to incorporate their recycled plastic yarn into her clothing lines. The designer will also be using ECONYL fiber, made from nylon waste, in crafting her accessories, such as shoes and handbags, according to Sustainable Brands

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But can changing the way runway fashions are created really have a far-reaching impact, as McCartney seems to hope? After all, most runway fashions never find their way into the closets of average people. Or at least, not in the way one might think. As it turns out, runway fashion has a large impact on the fashion trends marketed to everyday people. In fact, runway designs are almost always the inspiration for more mainstream fashion trends in a given year, via a phenomenon commonly known as trickle-down fashion.

Does it not stand to reason, then, that if a certain hemlines and color palettes can trickle down from the runway to the mainstream, that sustainable materials could, as well? Thanks in part to awareness campaigns like the ones launched by McCartney, consumers today are more cognizant of environmental issues, and are demanding more eco-friendly products than ever before. Should eco-friendliness become fashionable on the runway, it is very possible that it could become even more fashionable for mainstream consumers. In that way, small changes like those being made by designers like McCartney have the potential to reach much further than a single brand or clothing line. 

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