When it was announced in 1997 that Stella McCartney would be taking over at Chloe, Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld took a swipe at her. "Chloe should have taken a big name," he opined. "They did, but in music, not fashion. Let's hope she's as gifted as her father." Since then, the German-born designer has sent many letters to Stella, begging her to come to tea. She has yet to accept.
Stella was born in 1972 to former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and his wife Linda, and it would be easy to believe she enjoyed a rarefied childhood. You would be wrong, however. Unlike most celebrities, the McCartneys thrust their children into the thick of the real world. Brought up without nannies and bodyguards, they learnt that true security comes from a loving family and loyal friends rather than infra-red gadgets. Stella was educated at the local state school in East Sussex, and washed dishes in a local restaurant to earn the money to buy the clothes she wanted.
Gaining a place at St Martin's College of Art to study fashion, Stella was apparently bullied during her time there. Scrabble letters used in a display for her college show were rearranged to read "Daddy's Girl", and when, in her graduation show, she called on her friends Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Yasmin Le Bon to model her collection, it caused a lot of bad feeling. For Stella, however, it had the opposite effect. The collection was bought up by London boutique Tokio and her designs were soon being worn by celebrities such as Patsy Kensit and Meg Mathews.
When Chloé came calling, Stella put her own label on hold and moved over to the French capital to breathe some new life into the ailing company, whose last two shows had been booed off the catwalk. Out went the grey carpets and Eighties décor in its Rue du Faubourg St Honoré headquarters and in came boho Notting Hill style. The Chloé style a feminine, floaty look which Stella's mother had loved in the Seventies was here to stay, however, albeit in a Nineties version.
When Linda died of breast cancer in 1998 Stella never faltered, and her funky, foxy designs became a staple of every self-respecting girl about town. In 2000, there were rumours she was going to move to Gucci, but it was thought that her stance on animal rights made her turn it down, as the Italian label would have required her to work with leather. She scotched further speculation by signing a new contract with Chloé.
Stella departed the house in April 2001 to start her own label at the growing Gucci empire, giving her control not only over designs but materials as well. Though sources predicted she'd take over from head designer Tom Ford, Stella instead launched her own signature label, later venturing into the world of fragrance.
In September, 2003, Stella wed publisher Alasdhair Willis in a private Roman Catholic chapel at Mount Stuart House, the stately home of the seventh Marquess of Bute. And, of course, the ceremony - and reception, complete with vegetarian dinner and fireworks display - did not lack glamour, attended by celebrity pals including Gwyneth Paltrow, Pierce Brosnan and Madonna. Their first child, son Miller Alisdhair James Willis, was born in February 2005. Their daughter, Bailey Linda Olwyn Willis, followed in December 2006, and a third child, Beckett Robert Lee, was born in January 2008.