When we first met with Amy Powney back in May to discuss her then new and sustainable bridal capsule collection, she mentioned in passing that something exciting was brewing for her brand. Just a few months later and, a culmination of two years of hard work, the Mother of Pearl designer has just announced her field-to-final sustainable core line ‘No Frills’, which champions a fully organic and socially responsible process from start to finish. It was a journey that led Amy to meeting organic cotton pickers in Turkey and sheep farmers in Uruguay, on a mission to produce a collection for which the produce hasn’t travelled hundreds upon hundreds of unnecessary miles. 

Fashion is often touted as the second largest polluter among worldwide industry; we spoke with Amy to find out how we can all make steps to ensure that it’s a trend that won’t continue. 

What does ‘sustainability’ mean to you? 
Sustainability is a mindset and a filter for your brain; it’s a sieve that all of your decisions can go through. To sustain something is to last, whether that’s talking about the quality of the product or the planet itself – there is an element of ‘make do and mend’ without sounding unglamorous. When I create, I filter my process to ensure that we are creating something ethically sound, but equally, the same filter should ask whether a garment is actually needed for the brand or the season. For instance, ‘Will it convert?’ or ‘Will it add something to a consumer’s life?’ There is no point in creating something if it doesn’t serve a purpose; this is creating unnecessary waste.

The same applies to lifestyle. We run the studio with the same principles, from packaging-free vegetarian lunches to filtered water systems and a ban on plastic bottles. The best part is that sustainability is accessible to all – we can all do our bit, but we can also falter a little without being too hard on ourselves.

What are some of your tips for living life sustainably? 
Buy less; buy quality; buy 70% staple items and 30% for fun! That’s our new business model. We can’t create everything we do as sustainably as I would like, so we want No Frills to make up our Mother of Pearl girl’s main wardrobe, and then sprinkle in the fun on top.

Outside of fashion, get a reusable bottle! It’s so easy and it makes a huge difference. The same for coffee cups. Make breakfast at home and don’t buy it on the way to work; change your energy supplier to Ecotricity, or something similar; eat less meat, especially red meat. These are my main tips that everyone can do without sustainability changing your lifestyle at all – and it will actually save you money. For companies, change your energy suppliers and fit filtered water systems into your taps… And ban plastic bottles. Ask your staff to come up with sustainable ideas, and get everyone involved. I hired a small cinema and screened The True Cost, a documentary for my team to all to watch to make everyone feel more passionate about the subject. 

With all that said, don’t give yourself a hard time when you slip up occasionally; trying to live sustainably should make you feel better, not worse!

What, for you, constitutes a ‘wardrobe staple’? What do these look like for Mother of Pearl?
Think classics with an added pearl; tailored suits with little details and hems or fastenings; mum jeans and slogan tees featuring humorous takes on the supermarket 'No Frills' branding that I modelled the collection on – and grew up with! Striped or white shirting with pearl additions; much loved pearl-shouldered oversized coats and bell-sleeve knitwear… This launch collection is just the beginning! For next season, we have taken it further into sustainable forestry with printed viscose additions, and exaggerated contrast-sleeve jersey pieces that made up some of the mainline Mother of Pearl collections. These pieces have been moved into the No Frills core and made super sustainable. 

For me, overalls and overall dresses are my everyday go-to. I am so busy, so I love having something I can throw on without thinking and just add in a funny sock, shoe or jewellery – and the occasional red lip to ‘fluff’ me up!

What are some of the main things that you’ve learned in the two years of tracking the supply chain?
So many things! My biggest learning was that I could save money by re-looking at the supply chain; before I began, I assumed that my sustainable collection would retail higher than my main collection, but it has actually worked out cheaper because I re-thought the whole process. Who knew that a lesson in geography and farming would create something that not only ticks all the sustainable boxes from an environmental and social respect, but that we could sustain the concept through a more accessible price point?

Is this your hope for the future of fashion? What does that look like to you? 
Greener and cleaner, but still aspirational, inspirational and creative. I don’t think that we need to suffer style in favour of ethics or vice versa… We can have both! I hope for a shift back to product first, and authentic product at a slower pace so that we can all focus on quality not quantity. I hope that designers and their teams, who churn out continual new product, and also consumers will start to consider their purchases. 

No Frills was as much a development of product as it was a test case of possibilities; I wanted to preach something that I could practice, but also excite people with the product and not bore them with the negatives within our industry. I wanted a celebration of design and ethics combined! This is just the beginning of the journey… 

Watch the trailer for No Frills by Duck Productions.

Shop Mother of Pearl here:

In case you missed it, watch our film with Amy Powney in her studio following the launch of her Pearly Whites bridal capsule.