Mother of Pearl’s Amy Powney takes a playful approach to creating serious fashion.
Amy Powney, Mother of Pearl
“We have this new motto. It’s serious fashion, not to be worn too seriously,” says Amy Powney, referring to the playful design ethos of Mother of Pearl, the womenswear brand she heads up. And the 32-year-old Lancashire-born creative director is right. Having turned the label into a serious business, she is leading the charge of contemporary labels in London with a smile.
The down to earth Powney joined Mother of Pearl straight from Kingston University 10 years ago as a “floor mopper”, and has risen through what she calls its “different incarnations” to run the company as official creative director, unofficial CEO and now shareholder, alongside founder Maia Norman.
Under Powney, the label has really hit its stride, and now almost 100 stockists globally, including Net-a-Porter, Saks Fifth Avenue in the US and Isetan in Japan.
While the brand’s foundations were built on sportswear and print, Powney filters in a more playful, ironic approach, inspired by a 1990s childhood and memories of nostalgic sports clothing. She has also expanded the label, upping its footwear and accessories offering, and adding appealing denim and covetable knitwear, which have quickly become bestsellers.
Its balance of fashion-forward, quirky designs and keen price points (wholesale prices range from £65 for T-shirts to £295 for outerwear) places it in what she calls the “advanced contemporary sweet spot”.
“I’m trying to make product that’s investable, that you can keep, that’s a good price,” she says.
“Mother of Pearl is youthful with that quintessentially British quirkiness that our customers love. The print is always amazing and the way Amy has developed her shapes and decoration is really clever,” says Fenwick’s head of fashion and accessories, Paul Baptiste.
“She manages to pull together a sense of trend without following trends. Women wearing her pieces always have an intelligent and individual look with an amazing sense of style.”
And for autumn 17 Powney is continuing to make her mark. Taking the lead from brands such as Burberry, she is shifting to a “see now, buy now” model, and tweaking its collections from four ranges a year to two, larger, spring and autumn collections that arrive in store in four drops.
“It will behave exactly the same on the shop floor, but it means the buyers only [buy] once a season,” explains Powney. “We would get calls asking if people could buy product and we’d have to say, ’yes, in six months’. But the world is moving so much faster. See now, buy now is a reaction to what social and digital have done to the fashion industry. It’s logic, and I like logic.”
Powney points out that the shift has not been too difficult: “We can’t forward-buy stock, but it’s actually not that complicated – you carry on doing what you were doing, but under embargo. You just change the date you show it publicly.”
This meant the brand skipped showing at London Fashion Week this season, but is selling its autumn 17 collection to buyers as usual and will reveal the collection at September’s event, in line with when it drops into store.
The new collection is inspired by the Romantic period of the 1800s – bold florals lifted from retro interiors are splashed across oversized quilted jackets and worked in contrasting panels on modern dresses. Powney’s signatures reappear, in the form of an elevated take on track pants, statement sleeved tops, frilled knits and a masculine tailored coat given a fun, feminine flair via ruffled details.
She might not take herself too seriously, but Powney has created a serious brand to watch.