Fashion month has sent us to all corners of the animal kingdom, and the newest ready-to-wear collection from Stella McCartney is no exception. This Paris Fashion Week phenomenon was held at the oldest riding school in France, complete with an equine display orchestrated by trainer Jean-Francois Pignon. Not to be outdone by a showcase of wild horses, McCartney's Fall/Winter 2023 collection beautifully captures the preppy spirit of the equestrian world.
Former horse girls (like myself) rejoice - "Horse Power" is for us.
The brand is already known for its cruelty-free ethos by foregoing the use of any animal products in their design creations. McCartney herself grew up riding horses, joining multiple designers this fashion month in exploring the relationship between humans and nature. Her love of animals is clearly seen in the details of this collection, from her commitment to the equestrian aesthetic to the free-flowing garments printed with horses. The neutral-toned palette, offset with vibrant pops of red and orange hues, echoes another luxury brand linked to the horse world.
McCartney's take on equestrian fashion centered around thigh-high boots, coordinating sets, and preppy staples like embroidered polo shirts. Make no mistake, though. This collection is for the high fashion horse girl.
Horse motifs weren't just visible in the garments printed with the animal, oversized faux fur coats and knitwear were dappled with a pattern that was positively Appaloosa-esque. The looks that particularly channeled "horse girl" were offset with sharply tailored suit sets in a variety of silhouettes ranging from flirty cropped blazers to plaid trench coats. The variety in this collection touches aesthetic corners ranging from preppy and sporty, to edgy, to elegant and classic.
The true star of the show wasn't the clothes, or even the horses. It was physical proof that McCartney is one of few designers with a true commitment to ethically sourcing materials and promoting sustainable business practices. According to an article published on Fashionotography, 89% of the materials used by the brand are responsibly sourced, including her usage of plant-based and plastic-free leather alternatives.
The designer did receive some flack from animal rights organizations, who said that animals shouldn't have been made to perform during a runway show. However, during an interview with The Associated Press, McCartney said that the addition of the wild horses highlights a stark difference between her cold weather looks in comparison to other designers.
"I really wanted to make a connection with our fellow creatures because there is so much leather and fur and feathers on the runway, especially in winter,” McCartney said, “I wanted to show that you can do (fashion) in a different way you don’t need to kill anything and it can be (just) as luxurious."
"Horse Power" has left all of us former horse girls obsessed with not only Stella McCartney's designs, but her values, too. The designer has proven to the fashion industry that creating high quality goods doesn't require any harm to befall animals, setting an example for others to hopefully follow suit. Even the show put on by Pignon was cruelty-free, with McCartney specifically choosing him for his humane methods in training horses. Not only did she present a phenomenal collection, she did it with a significantly lower environmental footprint than the average designer.
Stella McCartney doesn't just talk the industry talk when it comes to ethics and sustainability. Her outspoken commitment to minimizing harm in fashion is beautifully represented in the details of this collection, making it all the more impactful. The designer gave us the blueprint for the high fashion horse girl, it's time to follow it.