A MOMENT WITH MOTHER OF PEARL'S AMY POWNEY
TEXT: LOGAN VERLAQUE IMAGES VIA MOTHER OF PEARL
The Creative Director of sustainable fashion brand Mother of Pearl talks us through her conscious inspirations and ethical goals.
Amy Powney is thoughtful. From her considered designs to her contemplative musings (revealed below), the creative director behind Mother of Pearl is authentically introspective. Powney, who is only 35, has spent the past 13 years honing her skills at Mother of Pearl and took over as creative lead in 2015. Since then, she has made it her mission to not only create beautiful pieces women want to wear, but to ensure that each piece made is created with natural (and often organic) fibers, and sustainable, ethical practices. Powney is here to prove fashion is sustainable.
Less is More ______.
Last item I purchased________.
Amy: A bath.
Last thing I got rid of _______.
Most important item________.
Amy: The husband :)
On the core philosophy behind Mother of Pearl
At Mother of Pearl, we make fashion with wit, heart and conscience - contemporary design with attitude that doesn’t cost the earth.
I started as a Studio Assistant at Mother of Pearl fresh after graduating 13 years ago and have worked my way up to Creative Director. When I was first offered the job at Mother of Pearl, it was a small company, creating artist collaborations that were really collector’s items in limited quantities. There was a moment when the brand started growing, when I would design 700 pieces in a year and it didn’t feel right. The demand for newness was so pressing that I considered leaving the industry.
However when I became Creative Director, I had the opportunity to really slow things down and focus on the issues that mattered the most to me; I wanted to create a collection that I could really stand behind. 3 years ago I personally went on a quest with my team to track down every step of our supply chain, this is when ‘No Frills’ was born.
No Frills is our fully sustainable line of core classics for everyday wear and it was designed around the idea of a simple product that could provide basic necessities with no unnecessary additions (at a more accessible price point). Instead of putting all our energy into the final design stage, we put the same amount of time and thought into ensuring that the supply chains that make the pieces are environmentally and socially sound.
Now, sustainability is the backbone of everything we do at Mother of Pearl and every piece we make has sustainability in mind. Our aim with all the work we have been doing is to not only offer a product, but to start a movement. My next mission is to use social media to empower and educate about the impact of fashion on the planet and how we can work together to make a change- stay tuned!
On the biggest obstacle faced in running a sustainable company
There are daily challenges and opportunities when operating a sustainable fashion brand. I often find myself taking a step back and questioning everything that we do. For example, a traditional fashion show takes up so much resource, time and effort, all for just a few minutes. In essence, this isn’t sustainable and so we are thinking about a different approach that is in line with our ethos. Ultimately, we are in the business of creating and this always has an impact. I always try to think about how we can reduce our impacts, whilst still creating beautiful pieces and inspiring change. Fashion is a great tool for change, and that’s how we want to use it!
On the inspiration for No Frills and how consumers are responding
To be an ocean advocate and to support artisans has become the biggest passion in my life. It’s a passion that has translated into my own habits. I’m always interested in knowing where things are from, how they’re made, how they affect our surroundings, not just me, but the world we live in.
To be honest it doesn’t take a big effort to apply these values into your life. It actually feels great to be aware of what you consume and what you’re contributing with. Because again, what you choose to buy, essentially sends a message of what you represent. I have found a way that I believe is right, and that’s what I choose to represent when I shop for everyday products.
On the most effective way to bring about a change towards a more sustainable future
You can't use the word sustainability for one thing, it has to be an approach, a culture.
We all have the ability to make better choices in everything we do, whether that’s at home or at work. Sustainability is a mind-set, everyone can do small things to make a difference. For example, at our studio in London we opt for group vegetarian lunches as the meat industry is one of the main contributors of climate change. The ingredients are all sourced from local farms via farm-drop which comes almost packing free, and then prepared at the office before we all sit down and eat together, we also installed a water filter to reduce people using plastic bottles.
In addition to small changes, speak up when you don’t agree with something. Use social media as a platform to highlight issues you care about, email your government, local council, brands you love that aren’t making a big enough difference if you think they could be doing more. Don’t be shy, if we speak out, sooner or later someone will listen and eventually make change- just look at the incredible movement Greta Thunberg has sparked.
Ultimately the best way to bring change in my opinion is every human making a small change to collectively make a big difference. I heard a quote recently by Anne Klein that I love, “clothes aren’t going to change the world, the women that wear them will”.
To learn the basics and for inspiration, follow sustainable channels on Instagram and other social platforms so it’s always front of mind, it’s great to mix it in with the fashion accounts we follow to keep a good balance.
On the tradeoffs of a sustainable wardrobe
In my opinion, a sustainable wardrobe is an edited collection of clothes that you truly love, rely on and regularly wear. To me, that is a wonderful thing and shouldn’t really require a trade-off. I love that there are new ways for shopping such as rental for unique pieces for special occasions.
On the added option for consumers to choose which type of sustainable practice they want to support (i.e. low carbon footprint) on MOP’s online store
We want to make life easy and most importantly transparent for our customers. Rather than trust a sweeping sustainability statement, you can see detailed information on every product on our website and even filter by sustainable attributes so you can buy pieces that support an issue that you care deeply about. We also provide detailed information about what each sustainable attribute means, so you can also learn about different environmental and social issues as if you are not in the industry it can be a minefield, you can see it all here. To me, this offering is a true luxury shopping experience.
On being a sustainable shopper
That has been the most important path I have been on, ensuring my love of design can be complimented by ethics.
A sustainable shopper to me is someone who buys pieces that they really love and cherish, with a view to keeping and wearing that piece for years to come. Whenever I buy something, I really do think about it as it as investment piece. No matter what your budget is, always try to think, will I still love and wear this in years to come? Moving away from buying pieces for “one summer” or “one event” is a must- why not try renting if you need to wear something that you know you won’t likely wear again?
Also look into brands that are making a conscious effort to be more sustainable, I truly believe that money is the peoples vote, whom you give that money to has the power to change the world, I like to think I can support better businesses and deprive those that are not making an effort, but we need people power to make the big difference.
On how she lives a sustainable life
Sustainability shouldn’t mean missing out. I see it as an opportunity to look into ways of doing things differently. I’m trying to reduce my air travel, so this summer I took the train to Avignon in the South of France, I definitely didn’t feel deprived, in fact the opposite, one of my favorite holidays with great friends.
I always stand by some basic tips to live more sustainably, change your energy supplier to a green one, shop less but better quality, swap meat for vegetarian for as many days per week as you can, support local farm to home businesses for your food and buy a re-useable water bottle and coffee cup. These things are easy to do and make a huge difference, some of them cost a little more and others a little less so it evens out.
My next mission is to use social media to empower + educate about the impact of fashion on the planet
amy powney, MOther of PEarl