LONDON – Stella McCartney regularly works with a cornucopia of organic materials, from mushrooms and banana plants to algae and samphire. Today, she adds grape and cork waste to the list and turns these materials into bags and platform shoes.
McCartney worked with colleagues LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Veuve Clicquot as part of a partnership that transforms grape stems harvested manually during the Champagne harvest into luxury accessories.
She showcased some of these accessories on the runway — without much fanfare — during her spring 2024 show during Paris Fashion Week last month. The open-air show, organized like a street market, featured a selection of bags, while the full collection is expected to hit stores in March.
McCartney, who is also a sustainable development advisor to the founder, chairman and CEO of LVMH Bernard Arnaultworked grape leather into three Frayme bags and a bottle holder containing Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label.
She also created two styles of Elyse sandals, which also feature a wedge platform made from recycled cork waste collected from the Veuve Clicquot cellars in Reims, France.
According to LVMH, the viticultural material was created in less than 18 months and helps reduce two major sources of greenhouse gas emissions: leather and winemaking.
The company added that the grape stems were sourced with full traceability from the environmentally certified Grand Cru vineyard of Bouzy in Champagne, which Madame Clicquot purchased 200 years ago.
Jean-Marc Gallot, CEO of Veuve Clicquot, said the grape leather was the result of a “strong collective effort and our expertise in regenerative agriculture. It fills me with joy that beyond making one of the best champagnes, our grapes can now also contribute to building a better future in the field of fashion.
When asked how this collaboration came about, McCartney responded that she posed a challenge to LVMH.
“I was considering cross-sector collaboration within the group and one day I said to Mr. Arnault: ‘You know, I place bags on my podium made from waste grape skins from the Italian wine industry. Give me one of your brands and let me use this trash,” McCartney said.
She adds that her brand and the Champagne house “are very aligned in their values, which was a real selling point for me. Not only was Madame Clicquot a pioneering woman in her field, but the house has prioritized sustainable and circular methods in its processes for many years now, so it seemed like the perfect partnership.
When asked if there were any difficulties working with the grape material, McCartney said it had the same look, feel and durability as real leather.
“You really can’t tell the difference. It also has the ability to be available at scale, which excites me because I can create and design fashion while pushing the boundaries. I can challenge an industry that is really out of date and still working with the same five to ten materials that they have worked with for the last hundred years,” she said.
Working with waste cork was an “exciting” bonus, McCartney added.
“Cork is very durable. It is one of the greenest alternatives and is 100% natural, renewable and recyclable. In addition to producing oxygen, harvested cork oaks absorb 3 to 5 times more CO2 than unharvested trees. Using the waste from the bottles has been amazing,” she said.
According to McCartney and Gallot, Veuve grapes are grown using regenerative practices, which helps restore local biodiversity and soil health and sequester carbon.
In recent years, Veuve Clicquot has been exploring new generation materials, creating packaging based on plant waste and making all its gift boxes from hemp, a soil regenerating and CO2 fixing plant.
McCartney also helped pioneer regenerative agriculture in the fashion industry, supporting a regenerative cotton project in Turkey, in partnership with LVMH.
Vegan alternatives to leather are thought to generate less than half the carbon footprint of animal leather. The partners said that by creating next-generation bio-based materials from waste, they are creating “scalable and sustainable solutions that are kinder to animals and the environment.”