When you hear the words “sustainable fashion” do you think of runway-worthy fashions or neutral-hued basics? Chances are it’s the latter, but U.K. brand Mother of Pearl is here to change all your preconceived notions about what sustainable fashion looks like. With luxury materials and a high-fashion sensibility, Mother of Pearl is proof that environmentally friendly and socially responsible clothing can be truly beautiful.
To learn more about Mother of Pearl’s sustainable practices, I spoke with Creative Director Amy Powney.
SARAH BOYD: When did you start working for Mother of Pearl and how did you direct it onto a sustainable path?
AMY POWNEY: I joined Mother of Pearl fresh after graduating 13 years ago and have worked there ever since, beginning as a studio assistant and then working 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 collectors’ items in small quantities.
There was a moment when the brand started growing, when I would design 700 pieces in a year. The demand for newness was so pressing that I considered leaving the industry. Instead, I decided to slow things down and focus on the issues that mattered the most to me; I wanted a collection I could stand behind. I personally went on a quest to track down every step of our supply chain to ensure that we were making the best steps possible and that I could lead the team with high sustainable standards.
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!
SB: What makes a fashion brand sustainable and eco-friendly?
AP: Every brand has a different view on being more conscious but I believe that sustainability needs to be fully integrated into every process in a brand so its part of every decision made. I encourage you to ask questions and do your research if you want to support sustainable brands. Social media has made it easier than ever to communicate with brands- lets use it!
For me, sustainability is a mindset, once you’ve started questioning things and opened your eyes, it will naturally infiltrate into every choice you make- from sourcing fabrics, to the way you to design and how you operate your business.
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 and energy, all for just a few minutes. In essence, this isn’t sustainable, this is why we no longer host traditional fashion runway shows and instead look for different approaches that are in line with our ethos.
SB: How do you source manufacturers, materials, and other resources needed to create your collections?
AP: A few years back we started exploring our supply chain and began re-developing the way we work at Mother of Pearl, trying to achieve a more sustainable process. We actually ended up making savings (which surprised us all!) and which was the birthplace of No Frills – a fully sustainable line of core classics for everyday wear. Designed around the idea of a simple product that could provide basic necessities with no unnecessary additions, at a more accessible price point. Everything we learnt on the journey to create No Frills infiltrates all of our processes throughout the Mother of pearl collection.
When I work with my team on sourcing fabrics, we have our usual checklist:
- Where has it been grown/ originated and produced and under what conditions, have any chemicals been used?
- How are the workers and animals treated in the process?
- Is it recyclable and/or biodegradable?
- Is the supplier transparent about their practices?
- How far does it need to travel to get from first stage to final stage
Once we have asked the above we then start to make choices; sometimes we can’t manage to tick every box, sometimes we do, but fundamentally no decision is ever taken lightly and we assess before we decide, which means we are always making best practice decisions at all times.
There is a huge misconception that you can either be eco-friendly or sustainable, but not both. How has Mother of Pearl challenged this misconception?
There isn’t really a definition of what makes something sustainable or eco-friendly. However at Mother of Pearl we embrace responsible business from a holistic point of view: from restructuring the supply chain in accordance to fully ethical practices to creating a plastic-bottle free and low-waste working environment in the London HQ, our aim has always been to not only offer a product but to start a movement.
What steps can consumers take to be more sustainable? What should they look out for when shopping for clothes?
The most complicated issue is for consumers to know what the meaning of a ‘sustainable’ brand truly means and what to look out for. Words such as ethical, transparent, conscious are thrown around a lot right now. My advice is to do your research, look into brands that are making a conscious effort to be more sustainable and ask questions if you’re not sure about something you have read.
At Mother of Pearl, we want to make life easy 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 search for and 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 it can be a minefield! We try to break it down and help our customers and community enjoy their shopping experience, and at the same time make informed choices that they can feel great about.
SHOP MOTHER OF PEARL:
Pearl embellishments and ruffle sleeves give this sweatshirt an elevated look.
This is the perfect layering dress for winter months.
Make this jacket a staple of your wardrobe, stat!