Designer Stella McCartney talks sustainability, fashion and saving the planet at COP28 in Dubai

Designer Stella McCartney talks sustainability, fashion and saving the planet at COP28 in Dubai
McCartney helms the world’s first luxury house to never use animal leather, feathers, fur or skins. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 December 2023
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Designer Stella McCartney talks sustainability, fashion and saving the planet at COP28 in Dubai

Designer Stella McCartney talks sustainability, fashion and saving the planet at COP28 in Dubai
  • McCartney helms world’s first luxury house to never use animal leather, feathers, fur or skins
  • Briton calls for tighter government regulations, incentives for sustainable production

DUBAI: For more than two decades British designer Stella McCartney has been on a mission to produce her fashion line adhering to sustainable methods of production, to combat climate change and reduce the industry’s damaging effects on the planet.

McCartney helms the world’s first luxury house to never use animal leather, feathers, fur or skins. She also adopted extensive sustainability principles following the Livestock’s Long Shadow Report in 2006, which linked animal agriculture with climate harm.

Titled “Stella McCartney’s Sustainable Market: Innovating Tomorrow’s Solutions,” and running until the culmination of COP28 on Dec. 12, she is also hosting a space at the environmental conference in Dubai that presents highlights from her latest collection.




Titled “Stella McCartney’s Sustainable Market: Innovating Tomorrow’s Solutions,” she is also hosting a space at the environmental conference in Dubai that presents highlights from her latest collection. (Supplied)

In addition, McCartney’s showcasing new breakthrough discoveries in regenerative agriculture, bio- and plant-based alternatives to plastic, animal leather and fur, and traditional fibers. Among these is a grape-based alternative to animal leather discovered in partnership with Veuve Clicquot, and the debut of the world’s first garments crafted from Protein Evolution’s biologically recycled and infinitely recyclable polyester.

“I am the first to say coming to COP28 is not the easy route; you need to have purpose and passion not only to get a seat at the table, but just to get heard at all,” the designer told Arab News. “Especially when you’re a woman. However, if I do not represent the industry at COP28, who will?”

“Fashion is not an island; our industry impacts everyone, everywhere,” she continued. “There are no laws or legalization that control how people are working. Every second, a truckful of fast fashion is burnt or sent to landfill.”




McCartney’s showcasing new breakthrough discoveries in regenerative agriculture, bio- and plant-based alternatives to plastic, animal leather and fur, and traditional fibers. (Supplied)

The fashion industry, according to the UN Environment Programme, is responsible for around 8 percent of all global carbon emissions.

Adding to the challenge of reducing its global greenhouse gas footprint is also the concern that the industry will grow due to increased consumption patterns and population. 

“If we want to leave a better world for the next generation, we need to have a voice here calling for change — encouraging both private and public leaders to join us by investing in and incentivizing innovation, creating less and doing more with what we already have, and being kinder to our fellow creatures, humans and Mother Earth. We have to stay positive, and proactive,” she told Arab News.




McCartney at COP28. (Supplied)

McCartney attended COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, where she declared that the fashion industry was “getting away with murder” due to a lack of accountability and poor self-regulation.

How does McCartney believe change can take place?

“Governments and policymakers can start by putting tax breaks and benefits in place for more sustainable, circular and cruelty-free practices. We are penalized, not incentivized, to work with vegan alternatives to leather,” she explained. “We need government leaders who are brave enough to step up and say no to the powerful leather, fur and agricultural industries that are so afraid of our cruelty-free future,” she said.

“We need policy change, because fashion is one of the most harmful industries on the planet,” she declared. “I have never used leather or fur, but that is because I had the privilege of being raised by two vegetarians and animal rights activists. So, I self-police myself. Nobody else would do that. Governments need to step in and make it worthwhile for brands to do the same, or regulate them, because I can tell you after 22 years, it is not easy.”




The designer’s latest collaboration with Veuve Clicquot serves as an example of what can happen when people from different industries, but with similar sustainable perspectives, come together to champion the same cause. (Supplied)

McCartney has been advocating for governments to change the way they approach vegan alternatives, which is what she incorporates in her designs.

“Our cruelty-free innovations are often taxed 30 percent more than skins that come from animals. How disgusting is that?” she told Arab News.

“Animal agriculture (which is where leather comes from) is responsible for 80 percent of the Amazon’s deforested areas, which has a huge impact on biodiversity as well as the release and sequestering of greenhouse gases,” she added. “One billion animals die annually for leather, so one place the fashion industry could start is by stopping the use of leather.”

The designer’s latest collaboration with Veuve Clicquot serves as an example of what can happen when people from different industries, but with similar sustainable perspectives, come together to champion the same cause.

“We used the harvest by-product from Veuve Clicquot’s regeneratively grown, traceable grape harvest and innovated a new vegan alternative to leather that is on display here at my sustainable market,” she added. “Could you imagine 10 years ago saying that a champagne maison and a fashion house had come together to innovate a luxury material? Time is ticking towards 2030; this kind of outside-the-box thinking and collaboration is what we need more of not only at COP28, but everywhere,” she said.


Meghan Markle filmed cooking with Afghan female refugees in US

Meghan Markle filmed cooking with Afghan female refugees in US
Updated 26 February 2024
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Meghan Markle filmed cooking with Afghan female refugees in US

Meghan Markle filmed cooking with Afghan female refugees in US
  • Footage released on Archewell Foundation website at ‘evening of cooking and storytelling’
  • Event held with Mina’s List, which helped evacuate over 2,000 Afghans to US after Taliban takeover

LONDON: Footage has emerged of Meghan Markle, duchess of Sussex, cooking with a group of Afghan female refugees in the US.

The video, published on the website of her Archewell Foundation, shows her making traditional Afghan cuisine, including dumplings, with the 15 women.

The meeting, described as an “evening of cooking and storytelling,” took place on Feb. 10 in partnership with the Southern California Welcome Project, set up by the duchess in 2023, and Mina’s List, a New York-based organization that has worked with female Afghan activists and politicians since 2014.

Archewell said in a press release that the women shared “their personal stories” and discussed “the support they find from this intergenerational group of women.”

It added that in 2021, Mina’s List helped secure the evacuation of more than 2,000 Afghan women and their families from the country after it fell to the Taliban.

Subsequently, Mina’s List and Archewell “joined forces to provide community and support to these remarkable women as they begin to rebuild their lives in the US.”

Archewell said the Southern California Welcome Project is “a safe haven and inclusive environment for women who have recently resettled in the US from Afghanistan.”

It added that there are currently 11 Welcome Projects operating across the US, “designed to foster a sense of belonging through activities including sewing, art, hiking, swimming, photography, storytelling, and cooking.”

The foundation added: “By facilitating women-based programming, The Welcome Project also brings access to critical resources and opportunities that not only supports the women participating in The Welcome Project, but also improves the lives of those around them — their families and their communities.”


Film Independent Spirit Awards sees Arab wins, Mideast fashion on the red carpet

Film Independent Spirit Awards sees Arab wins, Mideast fashion on the red carpet
Updated 26 February 2024
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Film Independent Spirit Awards sees Arab wins, Mideast fashion on the red carpet

Film Independent Spirit Awards sees Arab wins, Mideast fashion on the red carpet

DUBAI: US director A.V. Rockwell hit the Film Independent Spirit Awards’ red carpet in a look by Lebanese designer Elie Saab as she scooped up the award for best first feature for her movie “A Thousand and One.”

Rockwell’s green-hued gown hailed from the fashion label’s Resort 2024 collection and featured a dark-to-light green gradient color palette, a plunging neckline and a cape that was attached at the shoulders.

US director A.V. Rockwell hit the Film Independent Spirit Awards’ red carpet in a look by Lebanese designer Elie Saab. (Getty Images)

Rockwell’s film stars Teyana Taylor as a mother who kidnaps her six-year-old son, Terry, from the foster care system. The film had its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize.

Meanwhile, Celine Song’s quiet romance “Past Lives” won two of the biggest awards at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, including best feature and best director. Other big winners were Cord Jefferson’s comedic satire “American Fiction,” with Jeffrey Wright winning for lead performer; and Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers,” which won prizes for Da'Vine Joy Randolph and Dominic Sessa, the Associated Press reported.

The 39th edition of the show was held Sunday in a beachside tent in Santa Monica, California, and streamed live on IMDb and Film Independent’s YouTube channels and X accounts.

“Thank you so much for letting me share what it feels like to be human, to love and be loved, and thank you for loving our film," Song said in accepting the directing prize, according to the Associated Press.

Her film was among the top nominated at the show, alongside “May December,” which won only one award (for Samy Burch's first screenplay) and “American Fiction,” which fared better.

Wright won for playing a frustrated author who becomes wildly successful by writing something he hates in “American Fiction.”

The Spirit Awards sit firmly within the larger Hollywood awards season, which culminates with the Oscars on March 10. But with a budget cap of $20 million for nominees, the show celebrates films that sometimes go unheralded, or at least under-nominated, at the bigger shows.

Last year, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” swept the Spirit Awards before going on to do the same at the Oscars. But this year, many top Oscar contenders — including “Oppenheimer,” “Barbie” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” — would not have qualified.

Kaouther Ben Hania’s film “Four Daughters,” which is nominated for the corresponding Oscar, won best documentary. And Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall,” also nominated for best picture at the Oscars, won best international feature over “The Zone of Interest.”


Charlotte Church denies antisemitism claims after singing pro-Palestinian song at concert

Charlotte Church denies antisemitism claims after singing pro-Palestinian song at concert
Updated 26 February 2024
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Charlotte Church denies antisemitism claims after singing pro-Palestinian song at concert

Charlotte Church denies antisemitism claims after singing pro-Palestinian song at concert
  • Welsh singer-songwriter led a 100-strong choir singing “From the River to the Sea” during a pro-Palestine fundraising concert in Caerphilly, South Wales, on Saturday
  • Critics say the song calls for the destruction of Israel but pro-Palestine campaigners say it asserts “the right of all Palestinians to freedom, equality and justice”

LONDON: Welsh singer-songwriter Charlotte Church on Monday denied allegations of antisemitism after she was criticized for leading a choir singing “From the River to the Sea.”

Church led the 100-strong choir during a pro-Palestine fundraising concert at a village hall in Caerphilly, South Wales, on Saturday. The song refers to the land between the River Jordan, bordering the occupied West Bank and Israel in the east, to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism has labeled the song and its central message “antisemitic,” saying it calls for the destruction of the state of Israel.

However, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and other activists say the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” refers to “the right of all Palestinians to freedom, equality and justice.”

Church addressed what she described as the “alarmist” reports about Saturday’s event live on Instagram on Monday, in a message in which she explained she was “fighting for the liberation of all people.”

She said: “Just to clarify my intentions there, I am in no way antisemitic. I am fighting for the liberation of all people. I have a deep heart for all religions and all difference.

“It was a beautiful, beautiful event. But unfortunately the powers that be can’t have that. (They) can’t have such a powerful symbol of resistance as what we worked towards on Saturday.”

Church confirmed the event ended with a chant of the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

She said: “Clearly, if you know the history of it all, (it is) not an antisemitic chant calling for the obliteration of Israel. It is not that in any way, shape or form. It is calling for the peaceful coexistence of Israelis and Palestinians.”

Church added that “lots of other beautiful songs … of liberation and freedom” were performed during the event, including Arabic songs, Welsh songs and South African songs associated with the anti-Apartheid movement, “the lyrics of which were adapted to the situation in Palestine.”

In video footage from the concert, Church is seen standing behind a banner that reads “Let Palestine Live.” She and the members of the choir are wearing keffiyeh scarves, a symbol of solidarity among supporters of Palestine.

In November, Church posted a video message on Instagram in which she expressed support for the Palestinian cause. She urged her followers to watch footage from Gaza and the West Bank, and to amplify Palestinian voices during “this genocide that is happening in front of all of our eyes.”

The 37-year-old singer told her fans, “Do not look away,” and expressed concern about the children “caught in this geopolitical insanity.”

In the same video she said that starting on Nov. 20 she would be offering weekly singing sessions “for the liberation of Palestine and the liberation of the Palestinian people.”


‘The future of culture is local,’ RCU’s Vice President of Culture Jason Harborow writes during AlUla Future Culture Summit

‘The future of culture is local,’ RCU’s Vice President of Culture Jason Harborow writes during AlUla Future Culture Summit
Updated 26 February 2024
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‘The future of culture is local,’ RCU’s Vice President of Culture Jason Harborow writes during AlUla Future Culture Summit

‘The future of culture is local,’ RCU’s Vice President of Culture Jason Harborow writes during AlUla Future Culture Summit
  • The AlUla Future Culture Summit from Feb. 25 to 27 is part of attempts to develop an authentic local offering that also contributes to the nation’s economy, writes Jason Harborow, vice president of culture for the Royal Commission for AlUla

ALULA: There is an inherent tension in culture-sector development between global and local dynamics. In Saudi Arabia, we are in the midst of an unprecedented renaissance in the culture sector — with significant investment in arts, music, film, heritage and other areas to showcase the Kingdom’s history and identity to the region and the world. As we develop this culture offer, there is a need to understand global best-practice by engaging with leading cultural institutions with a longer history of this type of development and promotion. Whilst this engagement is important, there can be a temptation to become overly reliant on these leading — and often Western — organizations and to confuse Saudi Arabia’s culture development with importation and/or adopting an external interpretation.

The culture leaders of today must manage external engagement wisely — ensuring that we deliver world-class experiences that are true to local community values, traditions and heritage. At the Royal Commission for AlUla, we have found a way through this challenge by focusing our global culture engagement and partnerships on knowledge exchange and learning. Like others, the RCU is engaged with leading museums, conservation organizations and archives based in China, France, Italy and the UK to help us deliver a world-class culture offer. Our global partners play an important role in sharing learnings and knowledge, serving as a thinking partner and helping us to develop local, distinctive cultural assets that are true to the AlUla community.

Beyond cultural asset development, the RCU also works with international partners to develop our people. Global culture partnerships have helped us to deliver job and skills creation locally — ensuring that Saudi Arabia’s talent has access to the best trainers, accelerator programs and other learning mechanisms to learn about archaeology, exhibition management, acquisition, and other core culture competencies. At the RCU, we are proud to be building a strong, skilled generation of domestic talent that understand the global cultural landscape and is using this knowledge to build a progressive and original local cultural offering.

The Kingdom has welcomed 150 of the world’s cultural leaders, artists, tech entrepreneurs and policymakers for the inaugural AlUla Future Culture Summit that is running from Feb. 25 to 27. Given AlUla’s position as a leading entity driving the Kingdom’s cultural development, it is a great honor for us to host this summit, in partnership with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Culture. The summit aims to convene a high-level conversation about the future of culture in the Kingdom and beyond, looking at trends and opportunities to help the community to drive forward world-class sector development. The AlUla Future Culture Summit has been hosting a series of panel discussions, immersive performances, workshops, and guided explorations of AlUla’s outstanding cultural and natural landscapes.

The discussions will focus on several key themes that are important in the discourse on culture, both within the Kingdom and globally — one of which is the need to balance global and local dynamics. The growth of the culture sector is not just a social opportunity, it is also an economic one. Research shows that Saudi Arabia’s culture and arts sector has the potential to contribute up to 5 percent to the nation’s gross domestic product. In Saudi Arabia, the sector only contributed 1.7 percent to the country’s GDP in 2022, representing substantial opportunity for growth.

The RCU was founded in 2017 to drive the development of AlUla County and we have learned many lessons over the last seven years of operations, development and governance. Whilst the RCU has experimented with different approaches to, and profiles of, cultural activations during this period, we have remained laser-focused in our work to understand, cultivate, and celebrate authentic, local culture and to build the offering and visitor experience around it. Our Winter at Tantora, the AlUla Arts Festival, and the recent launch of Design Space AlUla are just a few examples of how we are delivering a culture sector anchored in our local community.

We are proud of our achievements at the RCU, but we can do more if we collaborate across the culture sector more closely. There is an opportunity for more of the Kingdom’s cultural institutions to work together more closely to share learnings, deliver more training, capacity building and skills to our people; while also thinking about how we can help the Kingdom to be an exporter to the world of the rich cultural assets that we are building.


Review: ‘Mario vs. Donkey Kong’ is an expensive remake of 2004 puzzler

Review: ‘Mario vs. Donkey Kong’ is an expensive remake of 2004 puzzler
Updated 26 February 2024
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Review: ‘Mario vs. Donkey Kong’ is an expensive remake of 2004 puzzler

Review: ‘Mario vs. Donkey Kong’ is an expensive remake of 2004 puzzler

LONDON: Almost two decades after “Mario vs. Donkey Kong” originally landed on the Gameboy Advance, comes a more polished – but almost full priced – remake of the action/puzzle title for the Nintendo Switch.

Widely considered a classic at the time, much has changed in those two decades but for the enmity between Nintendo’s superstar Mario and Donkey Kong. In this instance, Donkey Kong has stolen a bunch of suitable cute “Mini-Mario toys” and has done a runner leaving our erstwhile plumber hero to save the day by setting them free.

To do this, Mario, along with the usual assortment of allies from his gaming universe, must conquer 130 levels of puzzle fun across a variety of worlds. These range from dark volcanic arenas, spooky haunted houses, slippery ice lands, dangerous jungles and more, all presented in the polished colorful graphics you’d expect from a Nintendo platform.

The game advertises itself as suitable for gamers aged three and above but has a choice of “casual” or “classic” style to guide you into a choice of difficulty.

“Observe and act,” advises the game’s marketing team as each puzzle challenges you to think about which switches to hit at the right time to be successful. A generous timer counts down in the top right corner, but it doesn’t feel like there is a huge amount of pressure on you to rush through the arenas. Indeed, when you add in the languid jazzy background music, you get a sense of the game trying to operate at a more relaxed pace than other Mario titles. A nice feature of moving throughout the game is Mario’s gymnastic skills; backflips and walking on his hands to avoid falling hazards from above.

In addition to finding mini-Marios, the game has another nice feature whereby you have to shepherd a gaggle of the tiny red and blue fellows around hazards to get to their toybox. This brings back memories of the famous Lemmings game although far more bite-sized in nature.

Where the game is significantly different from the original is the addition of a two-player local co-op mode. This has been done with considerably thought encouraging genuine challenge for a pair of gamers as opposed to offering the same puzzles with double the human capacity to overcome them.

The format of the game is strong and offers the warm blanket familiarity of iconic characters along with their familiar phrases. There is plenty of quality family fun to be had here, although the cost of the game feels somewhat steep for what is largely a remake rather than a genuinely original.