Stella McCartney says she and Prince Charles were 'ridiculed' for sustainability values

Stella McCartney says she and Prince Charles were 'ridiculed' in the past for their commitment to protecting the planet

Fashion designer Stella McCartney described how she was "ridiculed" and made to feel "like a freak" for insisting on making organic and sustainable clothing two decades ago.

McCartney, who runs her eponymous clothing brand, also accused the fashion industry of "getting away with murder for a really long time", saying it is "one of the most harmful industries in the world".

Speaking about a time in the 2000s, she recalled: "I insisted that it (my collection) was all organic, it was all sustainable, which at the time, you know, I was ridiculed and I was like a freak for coming to them with that."

She continued: "At the time, we hadn't the knowledge that we had today but even then, I insisted that it was sustainable."

Stella McCartney shows Prince Charles her sustainable fashion exhibition at COP26. Credit: ITV News

The COP27 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP27? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP27 is the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt from November 6-18.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP27:

  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is attending the conference, after initially saying he wouldn't as he was too busy focusing on the economy within his first weeks in office.

  • US President Joe Biden and his experienced climate envoy, John Kerry, will appear at the talks.

  • France President Emmanuel Macron will also be among the heads of state from around the world staying in Egypt.

King Charles III will not be attending COP27, despite being a staunch advocate for the environment. The decision was made jointly by Buckingham Palace and former prime minister Liz Truss.

Elsewhere, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will not attend the talks just as they decided to do for COP26.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Ensure full implementation of the Paris Agreement and putting negotiations into concrete actions - included within this is the target of limiting global warming to well below 2C.

2. Cementing progress on the critical workstreams of mitigation, adaptation, finance and loss and damage, while stepping up finance notably to tackle the impacts of climate change.

3. Enhancing the delivery of the principles of transparency and accountability throughout the UN Climate Change process.

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The fashion designer, who met Prince Charles at the COP26 climate conference on Wednesday, added the royal was similarly "ridiculed" for speaking out about environmental issues for decades.

McCartney told ITV News: "Now, it's in fashion, now we're at COP26, and actually people are understanding, you know. These conversations, people are starting to get more informed and he was one of the first people in the room.

"So I admire very much that side to Prince Charles. And I think that basically he's getting the right people in the room to start conversations that can make considerable change."

'Fashion has basically been getting away with murder for a really long time', Stella McCartney says as she questioned the ethics of cheap and fast fashion

McCartney was at COP26 - a summit in Glasgow where world leaders are discussing solutions to the climate crisis - to raise awareness of how the fashion industry is harming the planet and to showcase some of her solutions at her sustainable fashion exhibition.

As well as Prince Charles, Leonardo DiCaprio also viewed McCartney's exhibition and was later seen speaking to the Duke of Rothesay (as he is known in Scotland).

One of her solutions is making fake leather from the root system of mushrooms, called mycelium.

McCartney showcased a fake leather bag made from mycelium in her collection in Paris and said the material "could be the answer to unlocking so many issues that we have" with real leather.

Stella McCartney's fake leather bag made from mycelium, the root system of mushrooms. Credit: ITV News

Animal agriculture, of which leather used for fashion, accounts for 18% of greenhouse gases, and also uses a huge amount of water and contributes to deforestation.

Another solution is taking waste clothing and recycling them into new garments, which can be recycled again. According to the fashion designer, every second, a truckload of fast fashion is buried or burnt, equating to more than £365 billion ($500 billion) worth of waste per year.

Consumers can also play their part by buying second hand clothing, renting clothing or investing money in well-sourced and well-made products, McCartney said.

And she questioned the ethics of cheap and fast fashion: "I don't think people understand, you can't buy something for £2... What is the human rights issue there? Who made it, in what conditions? You can't make stuff that cheap and have any good come out of it."

Stella McCartney's mushroom mountain at COP26 sustainable fashion exhibition. The root system is used to make fake leather. Credit: ITV News

But most importantly, she stressed the need for governments to provide incentives for organic farming and other sustainable solutions.

She said: "In order for my industry to actually stop being so harmful, we need policy change. We need governments to step up and give us some guidelines, just like they do to the automotive industry, like they do other harmful industries.

"And we need to have subsidies put to good things instead of animal agriculture and poor chemical cropping. And getting all of our subsidies, it needs to go into organic farming, into other products and (Prince Charles has) been championing that for a long time.

"And we need to be incentivised."