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On Assignment: Chelsea Clinton admires vegetarian stands taken by Stella, Linda McCartney

By Chelsea Clinton
Rock Center Special Correspondent

One spring day in my sixth grade Life Sciences class at Booker Arts Magnet Elementary School in Little Rock, Arkansas, we read two articles. The first concerned the cruelty toward cattle in slaughterhouses and the second was about the detrimental effects of red meat on your body. By the time I got home later that day, I had resolved to give up red meat, to take a stand against animal cruelty and a stand for my health (it seemed rather simple to my 11-year-old self).

That same night over dinner, I informed my parents of my decision and they were … a bit surprised. To be fair to them, although I had joined Greenpeace in 1987 (at 7, it was what I had asked my grandparents for as a Christmas present) and had been worried about the world’s whales for years by that point, cattle seemed to be a new moral frontier.  

At 13, I decided to give up all meat and fish.  My parents were even more surprised and cautiously supportive – provided I learned how to get enough protein. The first vegetarian cookbook I ever bought to learn more about how to be a healthy vegetarian was "Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking."  In a very pragmatic way, Linda McCartney helped me meet my mother’s conditions for being a vegetarian, to get enough protein and eat a well-balanced diet and, in the process, helped both my mom and me feel good about the choice I had made.

Although I now eat meat (after having not for 18 years), I have tremendous respect for people who make consistent ethical choices in their lives – people who not only don’t eat meat, but who also don’t wear fur or leather and don’t use products made from animal derivatives. 

From afar, I have long admired Stella McCartney, Linda McCartney’s daughter, as someone who does all that and more – who has never used animal products in her eponymous brand and who has catalyzed the development of new luxury products that gorgeously resemble leather, fur or skin, but aren’t.  Stella has also taken tremendous risks for her principles, including making clear to Gucci from the beginning she would not work with leather, a bold statement to an iconic fashion house arguably synonymous with leather, particularly from a then 29-year-old designer. (Stella McCartney is part of the Gucci Group).

Even more than for her ethics or her parents’ achievements (her father is Sir Paul McCartney), Stella is now known as a fashion designer, and one particularly adept at designing for women in all of our various moods, ambitions, roles and for every season.

A few months ago in London and last week in New York, I saw Stella at work in two different environments.  In her London studio, I watched her create, design and edit future collections for Stella McCartney, her kids line and her Adidas line. We moved to one of her stores where I watched her meticulously curate and correct every detail.  It was clear that her aesthetics are as consistent as her ethics- across space and time, a Stella McCartney is as recognizable as a Stella McCartney.

WATCH: Paul McCartney: Being Stella’s dad, ‘pretty cool’

As I found her mother and her mother’s cookbook charming and impressive, I found Stella equally so and more.  Watching Stella work, and listening to her talk about her passion for fashion and particularly ethically-based fashion, one gets the sense that while Stella McCartney has long arrived, she is only just getting started.

Editor's Note: Rock Center Special Correspondent Chelsea Clinton's full interview with Stella and Paul McCartney airs Friday, June 21 at 10pm/9CDT on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.