mother of pearl amy powney

Mother of Pearl’s Amy Powney on creating without compromise

In about fifteen years, Amy Powney worked herself up to creative director of Mother of Pearl. Started as a floor sweeper, she has witnessed a shift towards a more sustainable approach. Now that she is at the helm of the brand, sustainability is at the core of every step the brand takes. In honor of her spring/summer 2022 collection, Powney told us about her inspiration, creating during the lockdown, and why sustainability isn’t longer a buzzword.
Cover photo: courtesy of Mother of Pearl

Mother of Pearl

When Powney started at Mother of Pearl, it was a successful contemporary fashion label. Florals, big volumes, and bright colors were celebrating their heyday. Once Powney took the reins, things changed. The over-the-top ensembles didn’t fit her style, and it didn’t feel right to continue in the current direction. For her entire career, Powney had been interested in sustainability. It, therefore, was a logical step to incorporate durability into her personal life and make it the key focus of the label as well. For her spring/summer 2022 collection, Powney took sustainability to a higher level.

TT: What was your main source of inspiration for this collection?

Amy Powney: ‘As with all our collection SS22 has responsibility at the forefront of every design. I create without compromise and focus this responsibility on the environment and women equally. The Spring Summer 2022 collection sees more of Mother of Pearl’s laid-back, easygoing silhouettes. Key pieces are maxi dresses with voluminous sleeves tied with bows at the back and long-sleeved, tiered dresses with deep box pleats that fall to the low hip.’

‘There is an element of structure in the designs this season, where French seams are stitched on the outside to add texture to form-fitting designs. The collection is in a classic Mother of Pearl pallet where hues of tan add to the sophistication of the designs, while a bright watermelon pink sits next to a military khaki. As always, our signature pearls are pinned at the sleeve and feature in new shapes.’

She continues: ‘It’s about creating clothes that help women feel great, but also making sure they stand the test of time and remain in wardrobes for years to come. It’s less about seasons and influence and more focused on our supply chain and creating timeless designs.’

Designing during a pandemic

TT: How did your view on fashion change during the past year?

AP: ‘It didn’t do much to change my personal view of where the industry is at the moment, but hopefully, as a result of everything the world is going through, we will see the industry start to change for the good, we need some positives out of what has been a tough year for so many. I think it’s brought a heightened awareness at a consumer level of our impact on the planet through every industry. This will, in turn, hopefully encourage more brands and businesses to respond to a shift in consumer demand to be more sustainable and transparent in thinking about their environmental and social ethics.’

TT: How has the pandemic influenced your design process?

AP: ‘I wouldn’t say the design process has influenced it; more, it’s cemented in my mind that I design correctly and that it’s vital to put sustainability and ethics first and foremost. It also gave me the confidence to focus the business on core wardrobe pieces that would sit in your wardrobe forever, rather than huge seasonal collections which only help drive the linear fast fashion consumption model.’

‘It strengthened my resolve that I shouldn’t be designing something for one woman that comes to the detriment of another or damages the environment in some way.  Mother of Pearl has to work in harmony with people and the planet. As a brand and a mother, I have a part to play in securing a future for our planet and minimizing the consequences of our actions. This has always been my philosophy, and the pandemic has only shown me that we are doing the right thing.’

TT: Was there any lesson you’ve learned during the pandemic that you translated into this collection?

AP: ‘Only to keep trying harder, questioning, and doing what we are doing. I want to show the world what can be done and what you can achieve when you open your mind up, question the world and its systems, and stand on your own two feet and speak the truth. I want my daughter to know I have tried to rethink things in a very linear and greed-driven world and tried to do it my way, a way that thinks about all things, not just myself.’

TT: How has your view of sustainability evolved over the years?

AP: ‘I joined the brand more than 15 years ago as a junior and have worked my way up to the creative director position and, since then, taken over the business fully.  My drive and ambition from the beginning turned this into the leading sustainable and most transparent fashion business in the UK. We still have a lot of work to do, but I am incredibly proud of the journey we have been on. Joining the Zalando Sustainability Award was also an incredible recognition of our work over the last 15 years. We have strived to rethink the old-fashioned business model of profit and loss and encompass people, planet, and profit, seeing these as completely intertwined and dependent on each other. It was recognition of this work and our attempt to bring value back to clothes as beautiful, sustainably crafted pieces, and not throwaway objects.’

Setting a new standard

TT: How were you drawn into a sustainable path?

AP: ‘I was always passionate about responsible ways of working within the fashion industry given its long history of social issues and, more recently, the enormous environmental impact of fast fashion and consumerism growth. I grew up off-grid on a farm in the north of England, which gave me a grounding of respect for the natural world and critical workers in supply chains as my family and I worked on the local food-produce farms. As a result, I always felt that fashion shouldn’t come at a cost to the planet where we live, but we also shouldn’t have to compromise style for ethics.

TTM: Mother of Pearl is both eco-friendly and sustainable. How do you make sure it is both? And why is it so important to be both?

‘To be truly sustainable, you must be eco-friendly; you have to factor in people, animals, and the planet; it’s all the same thing to me. We’ve spent the last 5 years digging deep into every aspect of the business, gathering the knowledge to be able to make informed decisions on how to produce clothes in the most responsible way possible. We don’t compromise on our ethics. Every decision we make, we analyze, is the best choice we came to make to minimize our impact on the environment, on people, and nature. We do this at every single stage. Are we always offering the best for our customers without compromising on our ethics?’

TT: How do you ensure your pieces are always classic but always surprising?

AP: I pride myself on offering classic but never boring pieces, contemporary products that make you feel incredible but don’t cost the earth. My style elevates simple looks from day to night, which is how I design Mother of Pearl. Loose-fitting dresses with oversized sleeve details can quickly turn into evening wear with a change of shoes and jewelry or a simple t-shirt tucked into an asymmetric skirt with a great pair of shoes, some lipstick, and jewelry I also love as a go-to evening outfit. I believe women look the coolest when they are comfortable, for some women that’s heels and glitz for me it’s minimal and laid back.’