Mother of Pearl: No Frills
By BEL JACOBS
“Because fashion has not changed the way it works, it’s a challenge to break from convention. It’s incredibly difficult to be sustainable,” Stella McCartney told Times journalist Fleur Britten. Frustratingly, that’s too right – but this season, Mother of Pearl designer Amy Powney gives it her best shot, launching a diffusion range that may be the most planet-friendly high fashion collection yet.
No Frills, a two-year labour of love underpinned by a deep sense of social and ethical responsibility, uses organic materials with fewer chemicals and minimal carbon emissions. Powney personally traced the supply chains all the way back to the field, jetting backwards and forwards, from Alpaca farms in Peruvian mountains to the wool farms of Uruguay another week, to make sure everything is as on point as possible.
“I never expected it to be so difficult,” she admits at a glittering launch at Camilla Fayed’s Farmacy restaurant. “It was two years of trouble-shooting.” But worth it: Powney has had an innate appreciation for the environment ever since growing up a ‘off grid’ in the North of England; in No Frills, it has finally found its fullest expression.
And it’s beautiful. Ethical fashion has come a long way from its earliest incarnations but the high fashion collection with a conscience is still a rare bird. No Frills has it in spades. And while the collection is as green as green can be, it’s still instantly recognisable as belonging to the brand: with Powney’s louche, masculine silhouettes given oversized, extravagantly feminine flourishes.
Iconic Mother of Pearl pieces are reimagined with sustainability at their core. The cropped, easy Jewell Trouser has been restructured using ethically sourced denim, 100 per cent organic; grown, woven and spun in Turkey to reduce carbon footprint, in a certified denim mill with a water cleaning system.
The double-breasted tailored Francis jacket with matching cropped trousers has been created in a textured floral jacquard, made from a blend of organic wool and cotton developed exclusively for the line. The wool comes from South American farms that don’t practise mulesing; it’s washed with rainwater – which is then recycled. Modern dying techniques reduce energy and water consumption.
Meanwhile, the cotton comes from certified organic, socially responsible farms in Egypt. It’s woven at a mill in Austria that uses steam rather than chemicals to soften the fabric. The jacquard, Powney believes, may be the most sustainable ever.
The only compromise? Mother of Pearl’s trademark faux-pearl embellishments (not sustainably made yet, clearly frustrating, but the brand is working on them). The mission, says Powney, is to create as sustainable a collection as possible and to use its learnings thought the rest of her brand. And to encourage other labels to do the same.
“We’re not even proclaiming to be the most sustainable brand,” Powney told vogue.co.uk. “I just wanted to show the world that it was a possibility. Even if I can make [another brand] change two things, that will have a much bigger impact than Mother of Pearl can make on its own.”