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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: far east
After a quick look at the sunglasses, McCartney said it was time to leave for the recital, and I followed her out to her gray Mini Cooper. She tossed her black bag into the back next to two child’s seats. Leaving the lot, she hung a left, hit the clutch and shifted, and in a moment we were sailing through the dark, winding, residential streets of Notting Hill. A few minutes later, we rumbled to a stop in front of a large house and went inside to watch six little girls dance in a room seemingly created for such a purpose.
Later I asked McCartney if her Mini was turbocharged.
She laughed. After a moment she said: “My mum used to have a Mini Cooper. She had it custom-sprayed this metallic hot pink. She had a little microphone put in it, and she would sing to her eight-track. And she had a bench seat put in the front, and she’d always have four dogs in the back. My mum was renowned for collecting us late from school. I’d be on the village lane in Peasmarsh, and all of sudden — yeeooww — racing around the corner was this pink Mini with Neil Young screaming out.”
McCartney is in many ways her mother’s daughter. Like Linda, who died in 1998, McCartney doesn’t often wear makeup or fuss with her hair (though she doesn’t go so far as to cut it herself, as her mother did) or worry much about her critics. That so many of her designs seem to say, “This is me, whether you like it or not,” suggests the depth of her mother’s influence.
“She’s a paradox, I’ve always thought,” says Andrea Barron, a documentary-film producer, who has been a close friend of McCartney’s for more than 20 years. “She’s as male as she is female. She’s as feminine as she is strong. She’s always present. She’s one of those people, if you’re talking, who listens. She’s got balls, but she’s gentle. Every paradox, and I’ve thought this since Day 1.” For good or bad, contrast — the stylistic refuge of many designers in the past 20 years — is also at the heart of McCartney’s fashion, with a masculine pajama print complemented by a swirly white trim taken from a ceramic pattern, a combination she used recently for minidresses. But she does the effect well, in a way that feels true to her.
The seesawing between one thing and the other relates, naturally, to her upbringing: the public/private nature of Paul and Linda’s life, the to and fro between her “more gritty Liverpool side,” as she put it, and her cosmopolitan, well-to-do American side. In a work or social situation, you can almost see her drawing from both parts of herself, her conversational manner direct and mildly ironic. (One person, commenting on her ability to make people feel special, said, “I can never work out when it’s completely natural and when it isn’t.”)
Perhaps the most obvious way her parents have influenced her is in her thinking about animal cruelty. She is the only high-end designer who makes exclusively nonleather handbags and shoes. Her Falabella bags, which feature a chain detail along the edge, are hugely popular — according to Lukoff, accessory sales have grown fourfold in the last three years. Talking about her insistence on being leather-free, McCartney told me that she doesn’t think the rules of the fashion industry change very much. “They do on the design level, how a dress is made, but when it comes to how business is done, people pretty much follow the same rules,” she said. “Obviously I believe that using crocodile or leather to make a handbag is cruel. But it’s also not modern, you’re not pushing innovation.”
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