Upon hearing Mother of Pearl, images of pretty summery dresses with delicate details instantly spring to mind. It would have been such a waste of a beautiful name had the brand not been relaunched and reimagined after being formed in 2002 to not much of an audience impact.
Though the version of Mother of Pearl that we know today isn’t super feminine as the name would initially suggest, the androgynous clothes lean more towards femininity and bring out sexiness in a tomboyish way.
The magic of Amy Powney
The creative director’s years with Mother of Pearl spans the transformation of the brand, as expected because she was the one to instigate it. Her experience and growth from an intern to design director to being the creative director also reflects back a similar trajectory the brand has gone up to since it began.
The brand was built by Maia Norman and Sue Foulston in 2002. It was mostly an outlet for collaborations with Norman’s artist friends, which took a hard time to attract a market and UK retailers.
To this day, Maia Norman remains the owner of the brand but all credit of designing and heading every aspect of the creative and business sides goes to Amy Powney. Since Resort 2015, she’s made a full range of ready-to-wear apparel from clothes, handbags, and shoes each season for the brand. The collection went from canvas clutches and typical rucksacks that doesn’t really go with the brand’s aesthetic now to colorful leather envelope clutches for Spring 2015.
A majority of Mother of Pearl’s pieces is influenced from the ‘90s sportswear of Powney’s childhood and teenagehood in the North of England, which means British culture is deeply ingrained in the brand’s designs and overall vibe.
The shift to sportswear is when things changed for the brand. It now boasts of producing everyday clothes that can be styled up for special occasions. They’re made with luxurious fabrics formed to careful and well-though-out design. Print and color are the two main things that you can be sure to get from Mother of Pearl’s clothes.
The silhouettes are easy to play around with and the prints pack up a sartorial punch. Powney would even say the clothes are “something granny.” Sometimes the prints would resemble the ones in your grandma’s house, on her carpet or the sofa.
Ultimately, what the brand tries to make their customer feel is to be cool and comfortable in their own skin and enhance it with the clothes that make them feel themselves. We’ve all heard that “confidence is sexy,” and Mother of Pearl wants to assist on gaining that through their relaxed and laidback pieces. For the quality of clothing, the price points are also accessible to anyone who’s willing to save a few weeks’ worth of their shopping budget.
Fashion x Art
For every collection, the brand collaborates with artists to create the prints that would go on the clothes. They’ve worked with Fred Tomaselli, a New York-based artist, and Polly Morgan from London.
For the Spring 2018 collection, the brand collaborates with the British art of David Hockney. Powney admires most the depth in his art, so she emulates that through differently sized prints in one piece of clothing. There’s an overwhelming amount of inspirations in this collection but all were made cohesive in moderate applications and combinations. It was presented uniquely in a gallery where guests exited through a gift shop with books and posters about the art that inspired the collection.
Though the brand is now 16 years old, only recently did they really form the aesthetic and path they want to move onto, so growing pains are the main challenge.
Keeping up in the fashion world
Mother of Pearl is not new to the British market, but it takes some time for it to make an official breakthrough in the US. Apart from the private shows presented to the press, you don’t really see them in the global New York Fashion Week though they’ve done London’s for years. It’s difficult for smaller brands in the UK or Europe in general to ship out things but now, the brand gets to sell on 100 retailers worldwide and has their own e-commerce website.
Even so, the brand keeps up with the fashion calendar. They make four collections every year and starts on the next one the day after a show. Last year, Vogue hailed the brand a co-winner of the 2017 British Fashion Council or Designer Fashion Fund award, so hard work is paying off. Meanwhile, the team still gets to enjoy the flexibility and freedom to explore what they can do more with the brand. Maybe we’ll see them move past the small brand status and become a mainstay in the fashion industry, a brand that people actively seek out when they go to a store.