LONDON — When Mother of Pearl creative director Amy Powney received the British Fashion Council/Vogue Fashion Fund prize in 2017, she decided to invest the 100,000 pounds she won to drive the contemporary label into a more sustainable future.
She said goodbye to the catwalk in favor of see-now-buy-now collections; reworked the brand’s supply chain to focus on localized production and more eco-friendly materials, and introduced a sustainability filter on the label’s web site so that people can shop according to causes they care about — and she hasn’t looked back.
Now she is ready to shout louder about the brand’s sustainability mission and bring her conscious ethos to a wider audience with the launch of Fashion Our Future, a new online community that aims to educate, connect and encourage members to make pledges about how they will be changing their consumption habits.
Her ultimate pledge? To help stop climate change by encouraging people to rethink their shopping habits.
“The idea was inspired by my work over the past four years, on converting Mother of Pearl into a fashion brand that puts planet and people in equal measures of profit. When we launched the communication around sustainability, I realized it is an area that hasn’t been discussed at the scale that is needed and greenwashing makes it all the more confusing to people,” Powney said.
This is where Fashion Our Future comes in: Its web site and Instagram feed provide straightforward, easy-to-digest information on what Powney sees as nine key sustainability issues.
They include the industry’s unregulated animal welfare controls; the importance of trying out rental services to help reduce clothing waste; the exploitation of female garment workers, who make up 80 percent of the garment sector’s workforce, and the need to support brands that are transparent about their supply chains.
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Powney then makes a simple request to her community’s members: Pick the issue that resonates the most, pledge to facilitate change with your consumption habits and share your commitment online, to keep the conversation going.
“The concept behind the pledges is to have something that can speak to everyone and work in anyone’s lifestyle and budget. There is everything from renting, to buying vintage or trying to buy sustainably sourced viscose. There are so many ways to shop more sustainably, so we tried to break it down into digestible chunks using the pledges. We plan to introduce more pledges as the campaign grows and also ask our community to submit ideas, too,” Powney said.
“The topic is so wide and complex, so we started with nine pledges as a guide to help inspire people. But the beauty of the campaign is that you can make up any pledge you like and make it personal to you.”
The platform launched with strong industry support: Amber Valletta pledged to be an over-sharer by creating a curated wardrobe and wearing the pieces she owns on repeat; Jameela Jamil endorsed the feminist pledge and has committed to supporting only brands that pay fair wages, and influencer Camille Charriere has pledged to be a tree-hugger, buying sustainably sourced viscose in a bid to help reduce the number of trees being cut down to produce the material.
Alexa Chung, Adwoa Aboah, Arizona Muse and Sophia Bush have all followed suit, aligning themselves with the platform — as have big corporations such as The John Lewis Partnership, the British Fashion Council and Farfetch.
“We strategically launched the platform with people with big followings on social media, but our aim is to make the platform inclusive, as everyone has the power to make change. Our campaign motto is, ‘No one can do everything, but everyone can do something,'” added Powney.
She has kept the conversation going and the pledges coming throughout this period of coronavirus isolation, encouraging people to clear out their wardrobes and to rediscover old pieces, repair, sell on secondhand sites and donate to charity.
“We want to provide inspiration for people wanting to use this time at home to rethink their wardrobes and their shopping habits for the future,” Powney said of the platform’s latest “Selfie Isolation” pledges.
Part of the platform’s success has also been Powney’s focus on “creating a positive community” and bringing a more lighthearted, humorous tone into the sustainability conversation: No pointing fingers or aggressive call-outs here.
“When I show people the campaign, it’s great to see someone laugh when they see the pledge to only buy vintage until Celine Dion’s next birthday. I think engaging and positive tones mixed with humor really help to inspire and make change. Sustainability doesn’t need to be stale,” said the designer, who has been drawing inspiration from Jameela Jamil and her platform @i_weigh, which has built a community around activism and diversity and has helped fuel the change of global Facebook and Instagram policies related to diet products.
“I hope to do the same with Fashion Our Future: Create a platform that inspires, educates, sparks conversations and hopefully sends a strong message to government and businesses that need to make real change,” said Powney, adding she hopes to see the platform expand to events, talks and podcasts in the future, “to take the message as far and wide as possible.”
To that end, she has also partnered with John Lewis to create “the U.K.’s first sustainable collection for the high street,” which launches this week on the retailer’s web site.
“Having understood the issues within our industry and improved them in my company, I have since felt a duty to start a movement. Taking the Mother of Pearl mission nationwide felt like the perfect amplification and time to give more customers access to sustainable fashion,” the designer said.