It is classed as one of the most distressing aspects of suffering from cancer, the side effects of chemotherapy in which patients lose their hair. And British designer Stella McCartney knows all about this devastating disease, as her own mother Linda lost her battle with breast cancer, at the young age of 56. In fact, Stella has previously said that this was the most traumatic experience of her life.
With this in mind, the UK designer has decided to collaborate with the creative director of menswear label Rake, Clive Darby, to design a range of a limited edition of scarves that will given out for free to cancer patients, first of all to King’s College Hospital, and funded by Coutts, but you can also buy them, where the money raised will be donated to King’s College Hospital Charity.
Stella McCartney spoke to Harper’s Bazaar about her reasons for designing the headscarves: “The reality is that when you’re ill, your confidence is very low, and you hold yourself differently. I think that, when facing the big things, it is important that we remember that the little things are important too.”
McCartney and Darby have designed four scarves in total, two for women and two for men in medium and large sizes, priced from £95 to £145 for the men’s scarves and £145 to £185 for the women’s scarves.
The research that went into designing the scarves started way before McCartney and Darby were asked to get onboard. Jill Thomas, a 43-year-old cancer adviser for King’s College happened to join the hospital as a volunteer a year ago and immediately noticed that cancer patients did not have much to cover their heads with.
She realised that not only would providing a scarf give the patients added confidence, but it would provide the volunteers with extra time to bond with their patients. Thomas says: “I wanted the volunteers to be like hairdressers – to spend 15 minutes or so with each patient, teaching them how to tie the scarves, and thus building a rapport. Everyone is so scared, but they don’t know how to express it. They need to be heard.”
Thomas knew she had to get the right fabric for the scarves, as silk would slip off, cashmere was too hot, and wool could cause an allergic reaction. She sought advice from a Leanne Prichard, who works for Coutts, is a luxury and fabric specialist, who managed to get hold of McCartney and Darby.
“I knew that both for the patients, and also to get Stella and Clive onboard, the fabric was of the utmost importance. So I asked Clive, who signed up first, to take me to the best factories, and between us we chose Ratti, near Lake Como, which makes scarves for Hermès, and they advised us on fabric.”
The final choice of fabric was modal, a synthetic fabric made of reconstituted beechwood fibres and often used by top designer houses for its light feel and its dexterity. And the pair decided on a paisley print which works well for both men and women. Darby says: “As with all design, fabric is the key – it touches the senses and triggers emotions.
When I was a buyer at Browns in the Eighties, I remember buying a lot of paisley, way before anyone else, and it had this amazing reaction and selling power – I think men feel at home in it, too.”
The patients at King’s College Hospital will receive their free scarves come October, but you can buy a limited edition one by visiting the ukedit.com.
And Stella believes that they are just the right balance between making a statement and a classic timeless piece: “The idea of losing your confidence while going through such an incredibly immense moment in your life is just not acceptable,” she adds: “Fashion, the way you dress and the things that make you happy become more important, not less so. For me, feeling good about the way that you look is key. It is empowering, and helps you fight. Scarves are really important accessories, whether they are a necessity or not; they inject a very easy piece of style into your life.”
“And so the design for these scarves is bold and timeless: there is a balance that I think is really important. The ill who wear them won’t worry that they are making too much of a statement, but at the same time, the designs are exciting enough to make them feel proud of what they are going through and of the courage that it takes to confront the disease.”
Source: Harper’s Bazaar