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Considered Approach

Sustainable fashion is more than a fleeting trend.
Leading the charge is Mother of Pearl’s Amy Powney…

Words Elle Timms • Artwork Nour Algharabally

Amy Powney pictured at Mother of Pearl’s East London head office, studio and showroom space. Image by Malak Kabbani.

It’s no secret that fashion needs to wake up to the issues facing the environment. In recent months ‘sustainable’ ways to avoid climate change have become buzzy, leaned on for kudos across an industry that is, in fact, the second largest polluter in the world – surpassed only by oil. How is that possible? What can we do? Amy Powney, creative director at Mother of Pearl, has embarked upon a quest to make meaningful and inspiring changes from the foundations of the brand upwards…

“I spent the early part of my childhood ‘off grid’ living in a caravan while my parents built a house. Living the good life!” Amy tells us at Mother of Pearl’s (largely paperless and single-use plastic-free) head office in East London. “We had no mains water, gas, electricity. We couldn’t just turn on the TV or lights, and I guess for me that was a real early opportunity to think about and understand where the amenities we are so used to come from. And it just evolved from there.”

New horizon: Proving beautiful, sustainability-conscious fashion with a dose of fun is possible. Artwork by Nour Algharabally. 

Bespoke vintage swimming caps with bows on. Studio showpieces created by London-based studio Prudence Millinery. Image by Malak Kabbani.

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Inclusivity in fashion is about being yourself and not being judged for it

Amy’s upbringing became an adult life of impact, put in to practice in the driving seat at Mother of Pearl, a brand she’s been with since joining Maia Norman (former partner of artist Damien Hirst) as an assistant in 2006. Skip to 2019, and she’s formulated its aesthetic into a balance of cool femininity that’s celebrated and respected. Fashion editors adore Mother of Pearl’s instantly recognisable pieces and the message of global sustainability woven through them. “We are about women dressing for women. Dressing for yourself. It’s serious fashion not to be worn too seriously. As a female, I design for me, and women I know. It really is just about your own choice.”

With that level of choice comes another real deal. Mother of Pearl’s supply chain is simpler than most, natural materials are prioritised and traced to source, welfare for workers is acknowledged and certified, and carbon footprint and water consumption is closely monitored throughout all elements of the business. “It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, there are always ways to improve. I don’t think enough people make the connection between what fashion means to our future on the planet – it’s not information only for industry insiders, it affects everyone.” Amy enthuses.

Her dedication and ethics earned the brand a new level of recognition at London Fashion Week in February, alongside a presentation that signified the importance of reducing ocean pollution, Mother of Pearl co-hosted an evening with the British Fashion Council to celebrate and debut a collaborative film made with the BBC Earth. It welcomed Anna Wintour and Caroline Rush to support a global call to actionable changes, simple and new ways to approach fashion thinking for future generations, without compromising on luxury. It’s a mindset that applies to all.

“Lines are being blurred and previous ways, and stereotypes, passed over now. You should be able to express yourself in any way you want to – whether that’s modestly or not. Inclusivity in fashion is about being yourself and not being judged for it.” Amy explains. “If we could change anything in the next five years, it should be the sheer quantity that we consume. Brands like The Modist, and Mother of Pearl, are creating quality in a way that shoppers should fall emotionally in love with a product, keep it and wear it. If that changes down the line, the piece is still good enough to be sold on, or give to someone else. Throwaway, thoughtless fashion is what needs to stop.”

Pictured on a classic British beachside, SS19’s campaign nods to the importance of the ocean.

Creative director Amy Powney. Image by Malak Kabbani.

Video by Tobias Ross-Southall and Matteo Sanguinetti

SS19 showcased at LFW with a fully circular, minimal-waste presentation at the iconic Fitzrovia Chapel.

Digital prints for SS19 seen backstage, created in the UK using exact amounts of ink required and less water waste than traditional techniques.


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