Amy Powney bills herself as a sportswear-loving 'outsider' to the fashion industry, but her feminine and floral-filled collections and numerous design accolades for Mother of Pearl suggests something else. Amy Powney joined the East London-based fashion label in 2006, four years after it was started by Maia Norman, and rose to take the helm as creative director in 2012. Since then, the label has amassed a league of loyal fans across the globe who appreciate the brand's unique mix of the casual with the luxurious. We sat down with the woman behind this adored British brand, to hear how she does it all.
Outline your official role at Mother of Pearl:
I’m the creative director at Mother of Pearl but also the CEO. I balance my creative with the business to encompass my 360 vision for the brand. It's sometimes challenging having to balance the two, but they both inspire me and inform my decisions in all areas.
Where is ‘home’ for you?
My first home is my current house in London with my husband Nick, my cat Margot and new addition Roxy, our puppy. Those four walls are my safe place, but the rural landscape of Lancashire where I grew up also has an innate sense of belonging for me.
Was it always your life-long dream to become a fashion designer?
I was always interested in any creative subjects at school, and since I can remember my favourite hobby was when my mum and I got 'crafty'. I discoveredFashion as a creative outlet much later, in my teens. The fashion in the north of England wasn’t like London – I grew up in a time where a full Adidas tracksuit meant you were insanely cool. That was my fashion. When you look at my Mother of Pearl collections, my adult-version of fashion is in there. There’s also an element of that sporty, almost tacky time. At my school, clothes offered status and because I couldn’t have them there was a real desire for me to understand more about this culture; to understand that how you dress relates to whether or not you integrate (into society).
Can you tell us about the 'No Frills' collection and its focus of sustainability?
Where do you draw your influence from?
I get inspired from my everyday life. While I was designing the A/W '17 collection I was simultaneously renovating my home so I have been influenced by the references from both the projects; especially by Larry Sultan’s exhibit of the iconic Palm Springs décor in his 'Pictures of home' - bubblegum pink and pea green palates offset against luxury upholstery-style jacquards. To offset the femininity I took silhouettes from Victorian menswear; developing suiting, coats and ruffled detailing and looked to the Romantics of the 1800s with a nod to The Blitz Club on the way.
Describe the Mother of Pearl woman?
I get inspired by the strength and real femininity of the women who surround me. Growing up, my mother wasn't interested in fashion and clothing, but was still effortlessly beautiful and strong. So that has become the woman that I fundamentally design for. The Mother of Pearl woman, our 'Pearly Queen’, is a modern female who is culturally aware and confident. She has her own sense of style, and is dressing 'day to night'.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned since starting your label?
To believe in yourself and your ideas, to be informed and inspired by others, but not to veer from your identity as you can risk diluting your brand message. Being young when I began, I lacked confidence. Having staff, friends and family around you that can offer a good support network can give you that confidence.
What has been the most rewarding moment of your career, so far?
The most rewarding moment of my career has been winning the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund in 2017.
And the most challenging?
We’ve recently moved in to the ‘See Now/Buy Now’ model, showing for the first time the A/W '17 collection during London fashion week - meaning we're simultaneously launching the product into store and on our online store to purchase direct from the catwalk. I’ve been so impatient not showing my work for almost a year!
What advice would you give to emerging designers?
As a creative I was envious of the people who came from that sophisticated fashion or art background, it’s taken me longer to find my way as a designer because I was trying to fight against who I was, rather than embracing my background. When I started embracing it and using it as references my design got so much better; I found my identity. So, my advice is to be true to yourself!
Does producing a runway show still play an important role for the brand?
Definitely. Showing our collection on a catwalk allows me to curate my vision of the brand, and the seasonal concepts, and to celebrate those ideas with the audience. The only recurring issue is the sheer amount of shows [on the fashion month calendar] and keeping the viewing excited by ours. This season we served breakfast to our guests in an intimate setting with live music to offer them a delicate entry to the shows of the day, as we were the first show at 9am.
Describe your personal style?
I am a busy person and pretty casual by nature, so I'm usually the girl that adds a sparkly sock, embellished shoes and some statement earrings to my jeans and knit. I wear a lot of jumpsuits as they allow me to feel dressed up in the evening, but also comfortable during the day with a white trainer or slide.
What designers or business minds do you look up to?
Phoebe Philo of Céline for being an amazing female designer role model, Caroline Issa for combining business acumen with an innate sense of style, and Suzanne Tide-Frater [brand and strategy director for FarFetch] for her inspirational business mind!
What are your interests outside of fashion?
Since renovating my home, I'm obsessed with interior design, so much so I am now renovating our office! I get so little time for myself that my main interests are simply 'hanging out' with my husband and friends and family, seeing exhibitions and eating out at delicious restaurants. I really want to be 'into travelling' but I get so little time off that I prefer a relaxed retreat - but this is something I want to work on!
Favourite city in the world?
What's next for Mother of Pearl?
I am working hard on making Mother of Pearl more sustainable!
What is your personal, style philosophy?
Try new things but always be yourself, as it shows when you are not wearing a fashion skin that's comfortable to you. Find Amy Powney on Instagram at @amy_powney You can shop Mother of Pearl on Parlour X here.