In high school, I plastered the walls of my bedroom floor-to-ceiling with glossy magazine images. One of my favorites was a mid-aughts advertisement from the fashion designer Stella McCartney. It featured a Polaroid image of McCartney herself, probably around age four. She’s bedecked in dozens of necklaces and sitting on the floor with an adorable, albeit rather petulant, expression on her face. I liked how different this ad looked from the slew of others I had up on my wall; there was something deeply personal and almost endearing about it. Being granted a view into a private moment from someone’s childhood was in a way more arresting and shocking than the sexually provocative advertisements that ran elsewhere in magazines. This private expression of someone’s life in a highly public and commercialized sphere also hinted at something universal about the tone of her brand, though at the time I couldn’t put my finger on it. I now realize what it was that grabbed my attention about that photograph and how it speaks to what sets McCartney apart: her brand is dictated by her own steadfast personal values.

While researching for my interview with the designer, I came across something that seemed to confirm her emphasis on leading with what’s meaningful to her. In a 2012 profile in The New York Times Magazine, the designer’s husband Alasdhair Willis says to McCartney that “ultimately, what you offer the market is derived from how you live your life.” Perhaps this ability to hew to her personal values in an immensely public arena isn’t so surprising based on the publicity any child of a celebrity musician receives, no matter how sequestered they were as children. But the result of McCartney’s emphasis on what she believes in can’t be underestimated: to date, Stella McCartney is the longest-running high-end luxury fashion brand that is completely vegetarian.

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