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Ella Emhoff talks Stella McCartney, sustainability, and her own wild style

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The rising model and Parsons fashion grad is the new face of McCartney’s latest adidas collab

Ella Emhoff is a difficult one to pin down. When we finally talk over Zoom – a bunch of rearranged calls and meetings figuratively piled up behind us – it’s just a week after her Met Gala debut, where she stepped out onto the not-so-red carpet in a very red collaborative look by Stella McCartney and adidas. A bit of decompression time, she admits, was much needed. “I was so excited to be invited, but I was also kind of terrified,” she explains. “There’s almost like this big expectation to step into something super crazy and completely out of your comfort zone.” 

Thankfully, the British designer and the legendary sportswear behemoth were down to ensure the rising model and fashion grad was both comfy and confident. The red, beaded bodysuit and matching wide-legged trousers the trio came up with embodied Emhoff’s offbeat personal style and ensured she stood out in a sea of copy-and-paste strapless gowns. Perhaps most importantly, she also stuck to the assignment – because what’s more American than athleisurewear in the bold scarlet shade resplendent within the Stars and Stripes? (Other than being the stepdaughter of the VP of the United States, obvs). 

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While plenty of people thought the collab was a bit of a curveball for the most glittering event on the fashion calendar, just a few days later, things slotted into place. As McCartney dropped her AW21 adidas collection, all cosy puffers, louche loungewear, and techy detailing, Emhoff was announced as the face of the accompanying campaign, and suddenly everything made perfect sense. With McCartney fostering a sense of creative community within her ads, Emhoff joins the likes of Lourdes Leon, Kaia Gerber, and Grimes, who’ve all featured front and centre across the course of the last few years. 

“When Stella and the adidas team first got in contact with me I was super excited because I have very deep memories attached to the collaboration from when I was younger,” Emhoff reveals. “I was so excited to work with someone whose own values align so closely with mine. We’re both super passionate about sustainability and see how imperative it is that the fashion industry changes.” Having graduated from NY’s Parsons earlier this year, Emhoff is now embarking on her own design career, favouring a slow and steady approach. “My first collection is finished-ish, but it’s taking a while,” she adds. “It’s so important to me that I start on the right foot and make a difference within the industry. Working with Stella has been eye-opening. There’s another way to do things, you know?” 

As the AW21 adidas by Stella McCartney collection lands in stores, below, Emhoff talks her early fashion memories, stanning A$AP Rocky’s Met Ball look, and her own wild style.

Hey Ella! So first thing’s first, how did you end up starring in the new adidas by Stella McCartney campaign? 

Ella Emhoff: It was kind of an out of the blue thing, but when Stella and the adidas team first got in touch I was super excited because I love everything Stella represents. We’re both super passionate about sustainability, and see the deep importance of change within the industry right now. Not only do I love her designs and style, I’m blown away because she’s doing so much of what so many other fashion labels need to be doing right now. It’s so important to make it known that you can still have really high quality things without them costing the earth. 

And so you just graduated from Parsons earlier this year. How do you feel about entering the fashion industry at this point? 

Ella Emhoff: I feel like I’m at a really interesting point right now, with both my modelling and my designing. With modelling, it feels like the definition of what a model is has really changed in the last few years. It’s not only about being someone who can wear whatever clothes a brand wants to put you in, it’s also about being someone who has a unique point of view or something to say, and using your platform in a way that’s powerful or beneficial somehow. 

Starting my own label has also been super exciting, because I’m doing it alongside so many other young, independent brands trying to do similar to what I’m doing – trying to get started on the right foot. Using materials and methods of production that aren’t going to dig us into a deeper hole. I’m taking my time with it. 

And do you feel like fashion’s making headway in terms of sustainability or do you think it’s dragging its feet? 

Ella Emhoff: I feel a mix of both, honestly. Because it’s up to a lot of people to change, it’s so hard to make sure everyone sees things the same way – no matter how many individual brands are making these changes, it’s a collective effort. So it’s frustrating that only some are seeing the situation we’re in, particularly when it’s these huge brands that make up a lot of the industry that are going on as they always have. I feel like we’re making progress, because people are really outspoken about it, but I think it’s going to take a lot more to get everyone on board. 

So tell me about your Met Gala look…

Ella Emhoff: There’s almost this expectation for you to put yourself in something that is so crazy and out of your comfort zone, but Stella and adidas really took into my consideration my need for comfort and my own personal style, which is pretty casual and lends itself to sneakers and pants and things like that. So I felt very seen. There was a lot of back and forth and conversations making sure everyone was happy.

“I was definitely aware of fashion from a very young age. My mom is super fashionable and loves clothes, and I would always sneak into her closet and try on her shoes and just dress up and try on wigs” – Ella Emhoff

What was your favourite look from the night, beyond your own? 

Ella Emhoff: Oh there were so many good looks! But one of my favourites was A$AP Rocky in ERL, who’s one of my favourite designers working right now. That puffy, almost quilted cape was genius. And I also loved the whole Thom Browne crew, they looked so good.

How would you describe your own style? 

Ella Emhoff: This is so funny because I feel like before I started modelling and being in the fashion industry, I never really thought about it. I certainly wasn’t able to sum it up in words. But I think I’d say it’s always changing, with a baseline of comfort and colour, in a sense. I really wouldn’t say there’s one style or aesthetic that I feel myself more drawn towards. It changes day to day, which is why I sometimes look at my closet and it feels like five different people are existing in one body. It’s fun to be able to experiment. 

What was the first time you understood the power of fashion? 

Ella Emhoff: I was definitely aware of fashion from a very young age. My mom is super fashionable and loves clothes, and I would always sneak into her closet and try on her shoes and just dress up and try on wigs. I had the ability to explore my style from a really young age, and I feel really lucky to have been able to do that because it’s really helped me feel comfortable now when it comes to wearing what I want – with no regrets!

Do you have a fave piece from the new adidas by Stella McCartney collection? 

Ella Emhoff: That’s a tough question because I love so many of the pieces. I think my favourite is the sleeping bag jacket, the big puffer coat. It’s so comfortable and cosy – it’s like a cocoon because you feel super warm and safe inside it. I’ll definitely be wearing it a lot during my next New York winter.

You’ve been the face of a Stella campaign now, but do you think you two might ever collaborate on a collection? Thinking about her recent Ed Curtis crossover, and your Batsheva line…

Ella Emhoff: I mean, I can’t speak for Stella herself, but I hope so! I think we could make some very beautiful things together.

What’s next for you? 

Ella Emhoff: Modelling was taking the precedent for a second, but I finally have a studio space and I’m cranking out my first collection right now – it’s actually almost, ish, done. I’m moving into the how do I want to present it, what do I want my label to look like kind of phase. So I’m kind of figuring that out, but honestly, I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

It’s hard to know when it’s done or when it’s not done, but now after the making process is done it gets more into how do I want to present it, how do I want to make my label, how do I want to do a lot of these things. So it’s coming along, it’s close. I can’t wait to share it with everyone. 

Head here to check out the adidas by Stella McCartney collection.