Stella McCartney Calls for New Tariffs on Leather Goods and Unsustainable Fashion

Stella McCartney Calls for New Tariffs on Leather Goods and Unsustainable Fashion

The renowned fashion designer urges world leaders to implement taxes on leather products and environmentally harmful materials, advocating for sustainable and vegan fashion.

Stella McCartney, the iconic fashion designer known for her commitment to sustainability and vegan fashion, has called on global leaders to introduce new tariffs on leather goods and fashion items made from polluting or environmentally unsustainable materials. McCartney, speaking at the UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP28) in the United Arab Emirates, expressed her frustration with the current tax structures and emphasized the need for penalties on industries that contribute to deforestation and use toxic materials in their production processes. In an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson, McCartney highlighted the need for policy change and collaboration within the fashion industry to address its harmful environmental impact.

Challenging Current Tariff Structures

McCartney pointed out the disparity in tax rates for non-leather bags and shoes entering the US market compared to their leather counterparts. She revealed that non-leather fashion items can be taxed at a higher rate, up to 30% more, while adding a sliver of animal leather to the same product eliminates the tax. McCartney labeled this current tariff structure as “crazy” and called for a reversal of the law. She argued that industries involved in deforestation and the use of cancerous toxins in leather tanning should be penalized, emphasizing the importance of protecting human welfare and the environment.

Pioneering Sustainable Alternatives

As a long-standing advocate for sustainable and vegan fashion, McCartney expressed her frustration at being one of the few designers working towards developing alternative materials. During COP28, she announced a collaboration with Mango Materials, a company utilizing waste methane gas to produce a biopolymer for use in fashion items like sunglasses frames. McCartney highlighted the need for businesses like Mango Materials, which focus on clean and sustainable production, to receive tax breaks and incentives instead of industries that contribute to environmental degradation.

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Fashion Industry’s Environmental Impact

The fashion industry’s environmental impact is significant but challenging to quantify precisely. According to the United Nations Environment Program, fast fashion contributes approximately 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions due to its long supply chains and energy-intensive production processes. Animal rights group PETA claims that over 1.4 billion animals, including cows, sheep, and goats, are killed each year for leather. McCartney urged COP28 delegates to acknowledge and address the fashion industry’s harmful effects on the planet.

The Dilemma of Leather Substitutes

While some animal rights advocates promote leather substitutes, many of these alternatives come with their own environmental costs. Materials marketed as vegan leather often consist of plastic polymers like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU) or a combination of these materials with natural fibers. While synthetic leather has a lower environmental impact than animal leather, its production often involves hazardous chemicals and fossil fuels. Additionally, these materials can take centuries to break down, contributing to the global plastic waste problem. McCartney emphasized the need for widely available and sustainable alternatives to both animal leather and synthetic materials.

McCartney’s Commitment to Sustainable Solutions

McCartney’s eponymous label has been at the forefront of sustainable fashion initiatives. In her quest for innovative materials, McCartney has used mycelium, the root-like structures of mushrooms, to create handbags called The Frayme Mylo. However, the company behind this material, Bolt Threads, recently ceased operations due to production scalability issues. McCartney emphasized her focus on utilizing widely available by-products that are not grown specifically for the fashion industry. At COP28, her delegation showcased over 15 projects pioneering biomaterials and plant-based alternatives to plastic, leather, fur, and traditional fibers. Some notable examples include alternative leather made from grapes, developed in collaboration with Champagne brand Veuve Clicquot, and garments produced from biologically recycled polyester that can be recycled repeatedly.

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Collaboration and Policy Change

McCartney stressed the need for collaboration within the fashion industry and called for policy changes to address its environmental impact. She announced a partnership with PETA to promote alternative materials for leather, furs, and feathers. McCartney’s label has committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, highlighting her dedication to creating a better planet through sustainable fashion practices. She urged policymakers to consider the fashion industry’s harmful effects and implement laws and limitations that encourage sustainable practices.


Stella McCartney’s call for new tariffs on leather goods and environmentally unsustainable fashion materials at COP28 highlights the urgent need for policy changes within the fashion industry. As a pioneer of sustainable and vegan fashion, McCartney’s commitment to developing innovative materials demonstrates her determination to create a more environmentally friendly planet. By advocating for penalties on industries contributing to deforestation and toxic material use, McCartney aims to reshape the fashion industry’s practices and inspire collaboration among designers and policymakers. With her focus on widely available by-products and her commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions, McCartney sets a powerful example for the future of sustainable fashion.