Holly Swayne - Digital Editor
AS JOHN LEWIS & PARTNERS LAUNCHES A SUSTAINABLE FASHION COLLECTION WITH MOTHER OF PEARL, WE CHAT TO THE LONDON LABEL’S INSPIRING CREATIVE DIRECTOR, AMY POWNEY, ABOUT CONSCIOUS DRESSING, NEW MOTHERHOOD AND STAYING AT HOME
‘Everything feels more sacred at the moment; every purchase, every walk, every conversation with friends and family,’ says Amy Powney, the creative director of Mother of Pearl and sustainable fashion expert. ‘When you have to strip everything back to basics, it really makes you question what you need. Hopefully this pause has made us realise the importance of life’s luxuries not consumer luxuries.’
Amy is speaking from her home in East London’s Walthamstow, six weeks into the UK lockdown. But instead of bingeing on box sets and tending to a sourdough starter, she’s been busy juggling new motherhood with her three-month-old baby Niahm, running her business from her kitchen table and launching a new collaboration with John Lewis & Partners – helping to create its most sustainable fashion collection yet.
‘It’s a good day if we manage to get out of our pyjamas,’ she says. ‘Trying to have as much family time as possible while still running my business during this very difficult time has been a real challenge. As a new mum, I don't have a spare second, but I do think this is an amazing opportunity for people to stop and reflect. Whether that’s by reading, cooking, getting healthy or a good spring clear out, it's something we rarely get to do in our modern world. The last book I read was Sapiens and I wonder if now is the perfect time to read this: it really puts humanity into perspective, making us think about the future in a new way.’
“You can’t use the word sustainability for one thing, it has to be an approach, a culture. Mother of Pearl embraces sustainability from a holistic point of view”
Amy has worked for Mother of Pearl for 13 years now, starting as an intern fresh out of fashion school, before climbing the ladder to creative director in 2015. Since then she has transformed the label into one of the world’s most sustainable and ethical fashion brands, introducing natural fibres, transparent manufacturing and a socially responsible approach to suppliers. This conscious strategy won her the British Fashion Council/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund award in 2017, the prize money from which she used to rework the label’s entire supply chain.
‘My aim was to start a movement,’ she says of her goal for Mother of Pearl. ‘I soon realised that you can't use the word sustainability for one thing, it has to be an approach, a culture. Mother of Pearl embraces sustainability from a holistic point of view: from restructuring the way we make fashion in accordance to fully ethical practices, to creating a plastic-free and low-waste working environment in the London HQ. I wanted to make sustainability easy and understandable for our customers, so rather than trust a sweeping sustainability statement, you can see detailed information on every product.’
“Iconic and timeless pieces are at the heart of the collaboration. Classic stripe shirting with elevated details and sustainable denim make up the core element”
Amy’s mission to make fashion more sustainable hasn’t been dampened by the lockdown either. She has founded #FashionOurFuture, an Instagram account that asks followers to make a pledge to be more sustainable and post about it, now updated with the idea of ‘selfie isolation’ in mind. ‘It provides inspiration for people wanting to use this time to re-think their wardrobes and shopping habits, with a bit of light-hearted humour thrown in,’ she says. ‘I hope the lockdown can help people make some changes in how they consume fashion. It’s not about stopping shopping, it’s about considering your purchases.
For those wanting to consider their own fashion footprint, the John Lewis & Partners + Mother of Pearl collection is a good place to start. Created closely with Amy and her team, it uses the most sustainable fabrics and production possible. ‘Iconic and timeless pieces are at the heart of the collaboration,’ says Amy. ‘Classic stripe shirting with elevated details and sustainable denim make up the core element, alongside more playful styles that are very representative of the Mother of Pearl history. For print, I focused on polkas and leopard as I feel these will always have a place in your wardrobe. Whether prints are in or out – they can always be revisited.’