The Wick - Courtesy of Mary Fellowes The Wick - Courtesy of Mary Fellowes
Monday Muse

Interview Stylist and Sustainability Consultant Mary Fellowes

Interview
Mary Fellowes
13 February 2023
Interview
Mary Fellowes
13 February 2023
Ahead of this season’s shows across New York, London, Milan, and Paris, we’ve enlisted London-based stylist Mary Fellowes to share the designers we should be looking out for this Fashion Month.

After studying at Central Saint Martins, Fellowes began her career assisting Isabella Blow before going on to operate in the top echelons of fashion and media for two decades. She has worked for 11 international editions of Vogue, spearheading its first-ever in a Muslim country (Turkey), and was the first and only fashion editor ever at The Economist.

In more recent years, she has been increasingly focused on integrating sustainability into her work, creating wardrobes that are as sustainable as possible for Hollywood’s leading talent, and consulting luxury brands on being responsible, ethical and transparent through her disruptive, solutions-driven consultancy GreenWith Studio.

THE WICK:   Who is your ultimate Monday Muse?

Mary Fellowes:   At the risk of sounding wanky, Mother Nature is the ultimate Monday Muse. All the answers lie there. Whenever I am stuck, or even before I get stuck, I go and do some grounding/wild swimming/gardening/walk the dog. Or just pop on a documentary like My Octopus Teacher while I am cooking.

TW:   What is your typical Monday?

MF:   I wake up at 7am, walk the dog, make Ayurvedic coffee (adding in a custom spice mix my Indian doctors gave me) and tune into CNN. I meditate or do some sort of morning practice and get to the office by 9.30am ¬¬– we work at The Mills Fabrica, a state-of-the-art sustainability accelerator hub in King’s Cross. Mondays and Fridays we focus on internal business matters, admin and getting up to speed, so I might be strategising the voice and tone for a sustainable denim brand, benchmarking/developing a luxury brand’s ESG policy, or dealing with legal contracts (yawn!).

In the evening, I’d normally try and be virtuous – a group session with Nicholas Berwin, a genius spiritual philosopher who I met in India, followed by a salt bath and early bed. This is all making me sound awfully smug. I am also sometimes found scoffing pasta and watching Netflix garbage.

TW:   When working with a new client, how do you build an individual’s visual aesthetic?

MF:   It depends on the client. If it’s an actress, it’s harder these days to combine the level of glamour they need with finding a good variety of sustainable options. But I did prove it was possible last year with Elizabeth McGovern for her Downton Abbey tour.

If it’s a B2C facing brand or retailer, the first thing I say is to drop the expected ’sustainability’ image for their aesthetic. Too much sustainable fashion has echoes of wellness and the sort of ’suburban yoga mum’ aesthetic. I advise people to go the other way, to turn sustainability on its head and just be directional and badass. To challenge the viewer.

TW:   What was the driving force behind GreenWith Studio?

MF:   The driving force was no one single thing. Firstly, I grew up in a very rural and agricultural world, so land conservation and animal welfare were just things that surrounded us at home all the time. Secondly, I have always rejected trends for myself and only mainly shopped at flea markets or vintage stores (apart from the odd illicit sample sale splurge). So, as and when the issue started to really emerge as a key threat to the industry, and moreover the planet and people, I asked myself what I should be doing as someone with a powerful network and two decades of skills in nearly every aspect of the industry. When I wanted to make Olivia Colman’s Oscar wardrobe for The Favourite as sustainable as possible, I was confronted with way too much pushback from key decision-makers with brands. I managed it as best I could, but it flagged a huge niche in the market and challenge to solve. How to make sustainability cool and aspirational? What could be my mandate? How could I build on my skills to drive it?

“When I wanted to make Olivia Colman’s Oscar wardrobe for The Favourite as sustainable as possible, I was confronted with way too much pushback.”

TW:   What do you think the biggest hurdle in sustainable fashion is today?

MF:   There are three things:

1) The lack of legislation/compliance/regulation from both a domestic and international standpoint. I know there are efforts going on but as of today it’s too little, too late. The EU is driving the change, thank goodness. We’re also working on that – we spearheaded and co-hosted a policy workshop this past month with a range of policy experts and industry leaders.

2) Another huge hurdle is the short-term thinking of private equity. It reminds me of Selling Sunset and real estate brokers: take an asset, build, flip, and repeat. It is inherently unsustainable. There is a huge gap in joining the dots from finance and impact investors and innovative companies in sustainability, not just in fashion. We’re working on that too. Watch this space.

3) Lastly, a lot of brands and retailers are in denial – sometimes arrogantly/deliberately ignorant or just unaware and unable to take on that pressure on the back of the strain from the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis. It’s a huge challenge to suddenly add purpose and ethics into a business – to be aligned with rising consumer demand and wider ESG targets. The bigger/older the business, the harder it is – unless you just throw money at it and are patient with a reduced bottom line for a time.

TW:   With London Fashion week around the corner, which designers are you looking out for?

MF:   I cannot wait for the Fashion Reimagined film that Mother of Pearl’s Amy Powney made – the trailer was so moving.

I’ll be keeping eyeballs on anyone who is not only embedding sustainability into their collection, but showing it to be innovative and forward-looking. And is able to stand alongside other conventional, aspirational brands from a design aspect. Burberry is best placed to do this and is already doing huge amounts, so that is exciting. Helen Kirkum is a genius – her recycled sneakers are sort of works of art and demonstrate my above point perfectly. I also always adore Roksanda’s shows for the sheer poetry, magic, fantasy and colour.

TW:   Which upcoming designers should be on our radar?

MF:   I’m obsessed with Fanfare jeans. Mood Of Thought is precise, chic, directional and circular. Patrick McDowell cuts and adds design complexity you don’t often see in today’s very surface driven Instagram-oriented designs.

TW:   If you could style anybody, who would it be?

MF:   Tilda Swinton.

TW:   Where is your favourite culturally curious spot in London?

MF:   Hampstead Heath, where I live. Every time I walk there, I find new paths, or new little houses as if from fairy tales, and some mad characters – you have fascinating conversations if you look up from your phone and just say hello to strangers.

TW:   If you could take three items to a desert island, what would they be?

MF:   My dog, Tiger. No matter where we are or what we do together, we play and laugh.
A sketch pad and unlimited supply of calligraphy pens – I love drawing and ‘automatic writing’, which the surrealists coined, a meditation of sorts. And a huge barrel of Sriracha sauce, as that foraged island food is going to start all tasting a bit ‘samey’ after a while.


Share story
READ MORE
The Wick - Natsai Audrey Chieza, Faber Futures Founder & CEO, 2023. 
Image Credit: Ollo Weguelin
Monday Muse

Interview Biodesign trailblazer Natsai Audrey Chieza

The Wick - Helene Darroze
Photo by Jérôme Galland
Monday Muse

Interview award-winning restaurateur and chef, Hélène Darroze

The Wick - Angelle Siyang-Le, Director, Art Basel Hong Kong Courtesy of Art Basel. Photo Vivien Liu.
Monday Muse

Interview Art Basel Hong Kong director Angelle Siyang-Le

The Wick - Interview Stylist and Sustainability Consultant Mary Fellowes
Monday Muse

Interview Whitechapel Gallery director Gilane Tawadros

The Wick - Interview Stylist and Sustainability Consultant Mary Fellowes
Monday Muse

Interview  Sotheby's Europe chairman Helena Newman

The Wick - Interview Stylist and Sustainability Consultant Mary Fellowes
Monday Muse

Interview author, academic, and broadcaster Emma Dabiri