Sunday, 8 December 2013

THE GIRL WHO WAS TOLD SHE COULDN'T

Last week's British Fashion Awards - and the press surrounding a whole host of other things about what women should and shouldn't do... - got me thinking about last year's BFAs and a piece I wrote about the winner of two major gongs, Stella McCartney. I decided it's just as relevant now as it was then, so here it is again.




Everyone needs a little motivation in their life. A little something that gives them a kick in the butt just at the right (or even wrong) time. What shape that motivation takes will vary from person to person, man to woman, woman to woman, but the example Stella McCartney gave as she collected the first of two major gongs last night at the British Fashion Awards in London certainly resonated with me. When she took the stage to rapturous applause to pick up her International Brand of the Year award (the second was the biggie: Designer of the Year) Stella looked more than a little chuffed. And with good reason.

What came next was a story many – especially, but not exclusively, women – will recognise. A story of being told a girl like you can't.

After years of working – very successfully – at a French fashion house, McCartney said, she had decided it was time to come home to London, to the city she loved, to her friends and family, to try to start her own business, her own label, in her own name. She had done a good job, and loved her time in Paris, but it was TIME. Time to do something for her.

It can have come as no surprise to her that when she went to resign her boss didn't take it particularly kindly. Bosses don't, on the whole, not when good people jump ship. She was making a mistake her French boss told her. No-one – no WOMAN – had ever launched a label, let alone a label bearing that woman's name and turned it into an international force, anywhere but Paris. It couldn't be done. (Even then, it wasn't true… Diane Von Furstenberg, Vivienne Westwood just for starters, but put that aside for now). She was making a grievous error. It could not be done. She would regret it.

Sitting there, wearing Stella McCartney (in my case, gold brocade shoes – spectacularly high, weirdly comfortable) I and a thousand other people burst out laughing. They knew, as did McCartney herself, that she had proved him wrong. And how. From ready to wear to fragrance, from bags to accessories, from kidswear to sportswear, to the Team GB kit. Stella - one name, a woman's name, a British name, launched out of London, with ethical values to boot – is an international brand to be reckoned with.

So, to the French boss who told Stella she was a little girl who couldn't… On behalf of women everywhere, I thank you.

(This piece first appeared on my blog www.redonline.co.uk/blogs 28 November 2012.)

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