Fashion Reimagined - The Quest of Amy Powney
Designer Amy Powney's journey to sustainable fashion
The designer Amy Powney from Mother of Pearl is on a mission to reduce the brand's impact on the planet and is featured in the new documentary, Fashion Reimagined.
As we've entered Women's History Month and will be celebrating International Women's Day on the 8th of March, we wanted to put the spotlight on a woman taking the lead in sustainable fashion, Amy Powney.
When Amy Powney was announced joint-winner of the British Fashion Council/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund in 2017, she declared in her speech that instead of investing her £100,000 prize in growing her own business, Mother of Pearl, she would instead use the money to create a collection that was traceable from farm to finished product and made in line with specific environmental and social standards.
Her story brought the attention of Becky Hutner, a documentary filmmaker focused on stories about environmental superheroes. Becky offered Amy to bring her journey to the screens and Fashion Reimagined was born.
Amy Powney grew up on an off-grid farm in Lancashire, raised by activists parents, teaching her to respect the land and value the intensive work required to cultivate it. As a young adult, Amy decided to pursue a career in fashion, one of the most destructive industries on the planet, and soon came to realise how far behind the industry was in terms of its social and environmental impact.
First considering leaving the industry, she then made the decision to become a conscious designer and industry leader, supporting change for a sustainable fashion industry. Her graduating collection focused on organic and ethical designs, concepts that were barely spoken about in fashion 20 years ago.
When she graduated in 2006, she started working as an assistant at Mother of Pearl, a British brand founded in 2002. The label wasn't focusing on sustainability but was small enough to have a relatively close relationship with its suppliers. By 2015, Amy had become the creative designer of the brand, designing up to 700 garments a year.
After winning the award in 2017 and her pledge to use the money for a sustainable collection, No Frills, she first decided to change the brand's retail model to two collections a year and then focused on her supply chain.
Amy's mission was to create a collection that was completely sustainable and transparent from start to finish and the task proved to be almost impossible. As depicted in the movie, her journey takes Amy and her team across the world in search of fully traceable wool and cotton supply chains only to realise that the system isn’t really made to be this way and finding transparent suppliers is extremely difficult.
The difficulty didn’t stop here for Amy as, back home, the collection was a complete flop at the pre-season sales, buyers having no interest in sustainability credentials when no big brands were doing it.
Fortunately, things were starting to slowly change in the industry and by the time the No Frills collection was launched at the London Fashion Week in 2018, sustainability had finally made it as a hot topic and Amy Powney was ready to step in.
Throughout the years, Amy has expanded the work she did on No Frills across the brand, but is still very much aware of the work ahead of us to reverse the damage of fast fashion on the planet. Many fabrics still can't be traced all the way to their raw material level and designers often have to rely on blurry certifications schemes, as fraud in organic certifications has been a rising issue in recent years.
In her own words, 'you have to be a real detective all the time' and constantly ask questions to your suppliers. Amy also admits that a shift from wholesale to a slower fashion system resulted in a lower turnover but she sees this as an opportunity to explore circular models with rental and resale options to be launched in future.
Even though her love for fashion has changed over the years, Amy is more than ever certain she has a duty here and is determined to help shift the industry and help fashion to do good whilst making you feel good.
If you'd like to watch this must-see documentary, it is now in cinemas in the UK and will be available on Sky documentaries and NOW from 9th April.
It is so easy to close our eyes and forget what it really takes to make the clothes we wear every day. Of the 100 billion garments produced each year, 92 million tonnes end up in landfills and if business needs to be held accountable, it's also us consumers who are able to shift behaviours and expect more from our favourite brands.
If you want to hear more about the cost of fashion for the planet, The True Cost is an eye-opening documentary available on Youtube, focusing on fast fashion.
Finally, you know that at Positive Outlook we always have our planet in mind, but did you know that you could see the full journey of your favourite item from raw material to delivery to our store? Just scan the QR code on your label or package to find out more!
Blog Author: Léa Gorniak - Mar 6th 2023