With the numbers of women wanting to know that the brands they are buying are environmentally friendly on a sharp incline, it’s safe to say that ‘tis the season to be mindful when it comes to your party dressing. Cue Amy Powney’s 22-piece eveningwear capsule collection for Mother of Pearl.
London-based Powney is a rising star on the fashion scene and is known for her frank approach when it comes to sustainability, admitting that “fundamentally we all need to stop shopping”. She is also, however, respected for her realism and is one of a growing fleet of designers who promote the philosophy to “buy less and buy better”.
As the creative director at MOP, she has made it her mission to equip herself with the research and knowledge that allows the brand to deliver sustainable and ethical collections that still have star appeal (Gwyneth Paltrow, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Laura Jackson are fans). To create her new eveningwear collection, she started to develop her own fabrics to dispel the notion of “hempy, hippy” clothes and “offer a more elevated product to show what can be done under a sustainable umbrella”.
Her design ethos has always revolved around a day-to-night identity, which delivers fashion that can easily adapt to myriad occasions. It is a mood she has extended to the capsule collection, which comprises high-neck, asymmetric and bateau-neck dresses in black, beige, red and floral prints, strap tops, tailored trousers, coats and blazers. Featuring the brand’s signature dropped-shoulder and pearl-embellished ruching, Powney says the idea is to feel comfortable as well as special, reflecting the sentiment that “women have got to a point where they dress for themselves rather than onlookers”. To hit her message home, however, another shift in perception needs to happen in tandem.
“What needs to change more than anything, specifically with eveningwear, is the idea you can only wear a dress to an event once and then [have to] put it away because you feel like you can’t wear it again in case someone says something mean about it, which is totally driven by the media and advertising,” says Powney. She wants her customers to “buy something, look after it and treasure it” without being worried that it’s going to go into sale a few weeks later, which her core product never does. For one-off black-tie outfits, she cites rental sites such as Renttherunway.com as a good option.
It’s the second step in MOP’s No Frills campaign, which saw Powney and her team spend the past three years drilling down on the brand’s supply chain so that they could start to understand what can be a very opaque and complex process.
“I decided that we were going to work it out for ourselves, so we went and met with farmers and spinners and weavers to try to piece the supply chain together so we could see how it works, what the environmental and ethical impacts are along the way, what can we do to improve it and what fabric companies are legit and sustainable and who are not,” she says. As such, all her pieces, including the new capsule (with prices ranging from £350 to £995), are made from Italian fabrics in Portugal, and Powney has eyes on everything. Off the back of her findings, she is in the process of visiting publications and fashion houses to give them bitesize lessons on how to judge if a brand really is sustainable or is missing the point entirely.
“Lots of people don’t understand what sustainability really means … it’s not just the factory where something is made … the biggest environmental impact happens before that, when it’s being grown or synthetically produced.”
The next plan is to have sustainability “infiltrate into the office and the entire brand, from a single-use plastic ban [to] packaging”, says Powney. “There are aways things you can improve; we just take every decision we need to make and try to make the one with best practices.”