Getting to Know Mother of Pearl and its Sustainability Oriented Creative Director Amy Powney
Ethically conscious label Mother of Pearl, based out of East London, has made sustainability a main priority with Amy Powney as creative director. We’ve had the privilege of conversing with her about our mutual passions.
A while back, Make it last co-founder Emma Elwin was approached by one of our favorite brands Mother of Pearl to be featured in a series of images wearing the brand’s new sustainable diffusion collection ‘No Frills’. It was a definite yes from our side, and creative director Amy Powney generously left the London headquarters for a visit to our Stockholm office and studio. It was a wonderful day, resulting in inspiring photos and conversations on our mutual favorite subject. We’re happy to share some of it with you.
Amy, tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
– I grew up in the north of England living in a small country home and a piece of land that we visited often, and then for a while in a caravan ‘off grid’ whilst my father ‘bit by bit’ built our house on the same piece of land. When we moved to the caravan we realized what it meant not being able to turn lights on as and when you wanted, or having water running out of a tap but instead coming from a well.
– My parents worked on the local farms and my sister and I also worked on them during holidays and weekends when we were old enough. We had a very carefree youth in many ways, and made up games from nothing around the fields. But once I hit my teenage years, my desire to have branded clothing items and be less alternative than I was took effect, which spiked my interest in fashion and branding.
– As a child, all I knew was that I wanted to study art – it was my favorite school subject and my favorite thing to do with my mum in our spare time – and I knew I wanted to do something creative since as early as I can remember. That fused with my desire to have branded clothing carved my career path into fashion.
“We are one of the most polluting industries along with food and fossil fuels, and we need to all work together to keep the future of the planet bright, which I believe can be done whilst still loving fashion and creativity.”
What can you tell us about your role at Mother of Pearl and the mark you have made on the brand since you were appointed creative director in 2016?
– I began working at Mother of Pearl straight out of university and took on many assisting roles before becoming creative director. Since then I have worked on the brand and its identity. It took me a while to truly put my message out there, as I had grown up there rather than having come in with a fresh take and an intention to make instant changes; but having seen Mother of Pearl’s journey, I guess I am the most educated in its history.
– Almost three years ago now I started working on our sustainable practices as this has been a passion of mine since reading ‘No Logo’ at university and focusing my final degree show on the subject. I’ve implemented so many changes and put sustainability right at the brand’s heart, exactly where I believe it should be for any business.
What does sustainability mean to you in life and business?
– It’s a way of life, a mindset and something that should be integrated into any thought process if we are to carve out a positive future for all. For me, every decision I make for the brand or in my personal life is run through my sustainability filter. Sometimes I can make a very sustainable decision and sometimes I can’t, but I have trained myself to question everything; that’s the first step and then changes can be made daily, and these are the changes that can collectively make an impact. The best part? A lot of these decisions are not only accessible to all, but often save money.
Sustainability is an important part of Mother of Pearl’s core values – in what ways is this manifested?
– Sustainability is a very broad term and therefore has to be used broadly if we are to use it in our marketing. It infiltrates everything we do from the staff eating vegetarian Monday to Thursday with our organic packaging-free lunches; our green energy suppliers and plastic bottle ban in the studio; and making clothing that is fully sustainable throughout the supply chain. We are working on all angles of the day to day of running a business to the complexities of the supply chain. The more we do, the more positive impact we make – plus I am a perfectionist, so I can only do things with 100% conviction.
Tell us about the theme and concept for your new collection ‘No Frills’. In what ways does it stand out from previous collections?
– No Frills is a core diffusion collection that forms your everyday Mother of Pearl wardrobe. The line was born out of a project to try and create a product with a transparent supply chain, organic natural materials, social responsibility, respect for animals, a low carbon footprint and great quality. It differs from previous collections as we traced the supply chain further back than just the fabric.
– There are many issues with cheap labour and working conditions in our industry, which we have never played part in for the construction of our garments, but there are huge issues at the beginning of the supply chain. No Frills was created to look at all of these issues and create a product that ensures sustainable stages across all areas. Consumers forget that clothing begins at farming level, and not simply at the factory that constructs the garment. This is just the start and we want to infiltrate all our learnings to every part of the brand and also share this with others to help create a movement of positive change.
“As consumers we need to emotionally engage again with the product and give it the respect the craftsmanship deserves.”
What materials have you worked with?
– We are focusing on natural materials as I don’t believe that there are circular solutions to synthetics yet. Our wool and cotton are all certified organic, socially responsible and mulesing-free. Buying organic cotton under the GOTS certification ensures that the crops are grown organically, not allowing pesticides into the ground or the lungs of the workers, and the water is not contaminated with chemicals.
What can you tell us about the production? I hear (from Emma) that you’ve been visiting with some factories lately.
– I have to ‘see to believe’, so it was really important for me to travel and learn the processes and decide if their working conditions and processes matched the standards I wanted to produce under for the line. I have so far travelled to Uruguay, Peru, Turkey and Austria. To reduce our carbon footprint, we wanted to ensure that we keep our production from seed or birth to final product as close to us as possible, reducing its travels.
– It is fascinating to go back to the beginning and learn every stage of making cloth, and you realize the skill, technology and quantity of the hands that touch it to make it fit for garments. As consumers we need to emotionally engage again with the product and give it the respect the craftsmanship deserves.
What do you believe are the most important steps and actions for fashion brands to take in order to become (more) sustainable?
– Firstly, I would love to remove fast fashion and its continual spinning wheel. I would love brands to create their lines using 70% core products and 30% seasonal. Consumers are overwhelmed with choice, and in some ways giving simple messages from a brand has never been more relevant, so this is something I believe is possible.
– Then everyone needs to delve further into their supply chains and make simple changes in their offices. My advice for brands and consumers alike is to always switch to green energy suppliers, eat less meat, ban single use plastics in the office, and then specifically for supply chains: buy GOTS certified cotton – not conventional – push your suppliers for traceability and accountability, and look at the fabrics you use most; focus on those and develop them sustainably and reuse seasonally.
“My advice for brands and consumers alike is to always switch to green energy suppliers, eat less meat, and ban single use plastics in the office.”
Tell us about your recent collaboration with Make it last co-founder Emma Elwin. How was your visit to Stockholm?
– I was introduced to Emma on Instagram via a friend that followed her and I instantly fell in love with ‘Make it last’ – finally a site managing to curate sustainability in a cool, modern and desirable way. When meeting Emma: not only does she encompass everything you are about, also being unbelievably beautiful, but she has the most amazing personality, passion and talent for styling and understanding of the brand. The images were everything I had hoped for Mother of Pearl, and I would love to carry on collaborating. I was recently asked in an interview with Carline Rush (CEO of the British fashion council) whom my muse was, and I said Emma. That says it all.
What’s on the horizon for Mother of Pearl?
– Continuing to make sustainable fashion that’s both desirable and ethical. We are learning all the time and our supply chain is getting more varied so we are able to offer more and more sustainable products in styles we love. Along with this, I want to focus on educating and promoting positive change to help reverse the impact of climate change in our industry. We are one of the most polluting industries along with food and fossil fuels, and we need to all work together to keep the future of the planet bright, which I believe can be done whilst still loving fashion and creativity.
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