The designer tells us why the emo-popstar was her top choice to front her new ‘Yellow Submarine’-inspired collection.
Stella McCartney believes that three words could help us save the world: “All Together Now”. That phrase has followed the designer around ever since she was a child; her father Paul was singing them two years before she was even born. But five decades down the line, the torch has been passed through generations onto a new generation of popstar.
It was earlier in the summer that 17-year-old California kid and musical phenomenon Billie Eilish debuted Stella McCartney’s “All Together Now” collection, wearing a custom two-piece inspired by the psychedelic aesthetic of the The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film live on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.
The animated film, with its instantly recognisable graphics by the late Heinz Edelmann, had been spinning around Stella’s head for some time before Billie took to the stage. Having rewatched the film in all its technicolour glory to commemorate its 50th anniversary last year, Stella spent the past 12 months creating a capsule collection that transforms those iconic graphics into dresses, knitwear, accessories and sneakers.
In this exclusive conversation with i-D, Stella spills all on her conversations with Billie, how the timeless message of Yellow Submarine imbued her collection and why, if we’re going to change the world, everybody must be on board.
Were you aware of the parallels between Beatlemania and Billiemania when you thought of Billie through the brand’s lens?
I know that Billie is a huge, huge Beatles fan. The second time I met her she spoke of that real admiration for their songwriting, and I sense that when I listen to her work, and her brother’s writing. They have similar starting points [when it comes to] telling a story through the melody of music. There’s obviously a modernity to Billie’s work, but I think that there’s a lot of beauty in the arrangements of her music, the harmonising and the structure, that’s heavily influenced by The Beatles’s writing and work. [She has] a strong message of identity and staying true to yourself, never compromising. That’s something The Beatles did too.
In that sense, what makes Billie a natural fit for Stella McCartney?
Billie, her brother and her whole family have a musical story which completely fits with my own upbringing. We’re all vegetarians, vegans and animal lovers; she’s a big horse lover, for example. We spent a lot of time talking about our obsession with horses and how they are completely healing and save our souls. In my eyes, [she has been] really great at self-preservation. It’s important for me to align myself with people that believe in the same things as I do, so I can have honest and true conversations.
When you first saw the remastered version of the film Yellow Submarine, what was it that struck you about the visuals?
Watching the film again [made me realise]: “This is for everyone”. It’s so modern! To think what those four young guys did, in terms of the actual musical content and the lyrics mixed with animation and the artwork is just phenomenal. So I pulled it all apart: the colours, psychedelia, the patterns and the prints. I [removed] myself from the fact that it was family, and just found myself as a fashion designer watching a piece of art that was massively emotionally affecting to me. Creatively it hit me hard.
For womenswear, we did a print [inspired by] “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. If you watch that scene again, it is so feminine and crazy beautiful; a massive contrast between the rest of the film’s artwork. We took that into the womenswear collection with all of these beautiful dancing women emblazoned over blouses and dresses. There are some moments in which you would never know [the collection] is anything to do with The Beatles or Yellow Submarine.
It might be 50 years old now, but do you think the message that Yellow Submarinespreads, one of inclusivity and positivity, is still relevant and important right now?
I really do. What’s so amazing about it is that the messaging is somehow modern. I came out of it thinking that all of its messages — about bringing people and the world together, breaking down barriers and being inclusive — was so relevant to what we see every day. It’s a political conversation, but even goes further than that. Honestly, it gives me goose pimples now just thinking about it.
Stella has attracted a younger fanbase for the way it positions itself as an activist brand. You’ve been vocal about sustainability since the brand’s inception in 2001. Is it frustrating that it’s taken so long for people to wake up to the issues you’ve been highlighting for many years?
Yes, because we aren’t afraid of speaking out. At first I was criticised for it: people said I could never have a successful business without using leather or fur; for sticking to my guns and what I believe in. But I think it’s the most modern thing we do as a brand. We have always challenged the norm. So yes, it used to be frustrating being a single voice, but I think now more than ever the conversation is there and I think it’s brilliant to see the shift; I need more people to come to my side of the world! I can’t do this on my own. We need to work together on this.
Music can be a brilliant vehicle for social change, as The Beatles always made clear. Do you think fashion has the potential to do the same?
Absolutely. The way you dress really shows who you are and what message you want to tell the world. Whether that’s wearing a T-shirt that says “Suitable for Vegetarians” across the front in huge, brightly coloured writing, or whether it’s more subtle… wearing organic cotton or sustainable viscose in a simple crew neck. The more we all start talking about global issues and start having a conversation on what we can do to make a positive change, the better!
Finally, did you manage to make it to see Billie’s set at Glastonbury? What did you think?
Yes I did! I was thrilled she was wearing Stella McCartney. [The outfit] we made is specially for her; she was covered in Blue Meanies! I’ve seen her play before and I’m a big fan, but it’s my daughter that’s the biggest Billie fan [in the family], so I was very proud that I was able to be there.
Stella McCartney is launching a charity contest today with Omaze to benefit the Stella McCartney Cares Foundation, giving fans the opportunity to win a Stella McCartney “All Together Now” Vinyl box signed by Billie Eilish and Stella McCartney, including Stella and Billie’s favourite vinyl; an exclusive sweater from the “All Together Now” collection signed by Stella and two Front Row Tickets to the Stella McCartney Spring/Summer 2020 collection fashion show in Paris, including an outfit to wear.