Horse Girl. Stella McCartney AW23

Stella McCartney‘s autumn-winter 2023 collection was all about her long-time obsession and passion for horses. Judging from the models’ calmness in the runway pictures, it’s hard to believe that seven un-haltered white Camargue horses were running around the sand-strewn arena immediately to the left of the runway. They were joined by the horse whisperer Jean-François Pignon, who gently encouraged them to rear, run in circles and roll around in the sand. “There’s so much leather and feather and fur on the runway, especially in winter, and I just wanted to show that you can do it in a different way. You don’t have to kill anything,” Stella McCartney said after the show. She nailed it. McCartney is vegan, but also someone who believes in harmonious relationships between humans and animals. Her mother Linda bred Appaloosa horses, and to this day, the designer still rides. She has a horse named Summer and keeps dogs, too. Her collection was an exercise in claiming and re-appropriating the codes of the British equestrian wardrobes associated with hunting and the warhorses of the Great War, and all the things McCartney doesn’t believe in. “It’s beautiful: the tailoring, the bespoke work. As someone who studied that for many years, you can’t get away from it,” she said, reflecting on those uniforms. “The relationship between the man and the woman and the horse and nature, it’s this kind of pull-and-push, and I think there’s a poetry at the center of it all.” McCartney applied her equestrian grammar to the Y2K language of her own fashion history – the Chloé era! – which she first re-introduced last season. The fusion materialized in skimpy hussar jackets, little cropped vests, deconstructed denim suits from another equestrian culture, and low-riding trousers that infused draped hip chains with fresh tack associations. Those memories continued in dresses and knitwear that revived the horse print from her spring/summer 2001 collection for Chloé, albeit in a blurry evocation. McCartney’s ongoing rekindling with her own archives from her tenure at the house is timely – it’s what the kids want (her daughter is the best example) but it’s clearly also invigorating the designer in new ways. Everything suddenly feels a little bit more impassioned in the house of Stella.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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