John Lewis Launches Sustainable Collection With Mother Of Pearl And It’s Full Of Forever Pieces

As the collab launches in time for Earth Day, we spoke to Mother of Pearl's Amy Powney about how to really live more sustainably...

john lewis & partners x mother of pearl sustainable collection

by Natalie Hammond |
Updated on

With the world plunged into a state of emergency, and today being the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, it has never been a better time to talk about sustainability. Plenty already are. Since the beginning of 2020, global search platform Lyst has seen a 37% increase in searches for keywords relating to environmentalism.

And if Amy Powney, creative director of Mother of Pearl, has anything to do with it, the demand will surely rise. She’s all about transparency (every single garment is traced from field to final, so she can 100% guarantee its environmentally-friendly and socially-responsible credentials) and helping to educate consumers (her not-for-profit organisation, Fashion Our Future, has a wealth of advice on its website).


SHOP: John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl's Spotted Shirt Dress

spotted shirt dress1 of 1

John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl, Tencel™ Gathered Spot Shirt Dress, £179

Her next move is a capsule collection of wardrobe classics with John Lewis & Partners, which is made entirely from Tencel™ and 100% organic cotton. ‘We share similar values,’ says John Lewis & Partners’ head of womenswear, Jo Bennett. ‘I was blown away by how much the team knew about sustainability and how much they were already doing,’ Powney adds.

As the conversation around climate crisis takes on a new tone against a backdrop of coronavirus, Powney answers questions about what it all means for the future of fashion.

How will coronavirus change the fashion industry and the way we shop?

One good thing to come out of this is that we’ve all had to halt. Lots of brands will be gone after this, which is a real shame, but at the same time we have to think about how much product is out there and [whether] it is all necessary. A lot of people are going to be at home, worried about money and about how they come back into the world. Maybe it will slow people’s consumption. We can all come out of this as changed people for the better or we can very quickly forget it all and slip back into old habits.

The word 'sustainable' is used a lot. What does it actually mean?

We believe that sustainability is a mindset. For every choice I make in life, I ask if it’s the most sustainable version. Sometimes it’s not, because of time or money, but if you constantly put your head through that filtering process, the majority of the time you’re making better decisions. The problem is that everybody slaps something green on their packaging and adds the word sustainable. If you’re not someone who’s clued up, getting to the care label or looking at the nutritional information, you’re going to get sold something that you think is better when it might not be. Until legislation is in place, the only option is for people to do their own homework.

What do you think of the high street's attempts at sustainability?

I’ve been grumpy about the high street’s attempts in the past because a lot of people are doing it for sheer marketing. I did a talk and a student said to me, ‘Surely it’s better that we buy [collections marketed as sustainable] because it sends a message to CEOs that people want this product?’ I couldn’t agree with her more. The reason we partnered with John Lewis & Partners was that they were putting a lot of the right practices in place and were on a mission.


SHOP: John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl Leopard Dress

leopard print dress1 of 1

John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl, Tencel™ Tie Neck Leopard Print Dress, £159

Why is organic cotton a better option than conventional cotton?

The problem with people excessively growing conventional cotton is that it means constantly spraying the ground with chemicals. The land eventually dies and the nutrients die, while the chemicals are left in the environment and the workers inhale it. If you buy certified organic cotton that is also Fairtrade, you know your whole supply chain’s being looked after.

What's Tencel™ and why should I be looking out for it on labels?

Tencel ™ is a viscose, a natural fibre originally, but the chemical process it goes through is much less environmentally damaging.

How do brands source sustainable materials and find out exactly where they come from?

Entire product development teams will need to retrain the way they think and research. They need to consider their fibres, factories, spinners, weavers, cotton pickers and growers. They need to trace their supply chains right back to source and see how they can do better.

Do you think brands will stop producing so many clothes?

That’s the number one thing that needs to happen. If we all shopped half the amount, and we produced half the amount, then even if things were being produced in the same way, you’re still cutting your emissions by half. Just to cut down is great, but you also want people to be paid better. The end product would be more expensive, which it should be, so the consumer buys half the amount but spends the same money and knows it has been made correctly.


SHOP: John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl Blazer

double-breasted blazer1 of 1

John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl, Tencel™ Double Breasted Blazer, £159

If a piece of clothing is beyond repair, what’s the most sustainable way to recycle it?

You can send things to recycling banks but, as with food and packaging waste, I think only 10% actually gets recycled. I like to chop things up into rags to clean the house.

Do you have any quick DIY clothing alterations?

When we’re not in lockdown, I nip down to my local dry-cleaners if I need something taken up or taken in. You’ve also got companies like The Restory for leather goods. If you’ve invested in something and it’s looking a bit old, take it there instead of buying a new pair.

Does vintage shopping count as sustainable?

100%. Get a capsule wardrobe of basics – good quality ones you’re going to love and look after – and then if you want something fancy then vintage or renting is brilliant.


SHOP: John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl Jeans

jeans1 of 1

John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl, Wide-Leg Organic Cotton Jeans, £99

Do you have a system for monitoring what goes in and out of your wardrobe?

I’m unbelievably fortunate that I have my own brand and can have as many things as I want from those collections. When I was younger, I used to get a lot per season. Now I get one thing that I love and know I’m going to wear. You know when you go into a shop, try something on and, once in a blue moon, you go, ‘Oh my God, this is perfect.’ If you don’t have that, don’t buy it.

What changes can everyone make to their wardrobes to become more sustainable?

We’ve got loads of time, now. Get your whole wardrobe out on your living-room floor, put all your stuff back in that you love and make two boxes – one to sell and one to repair. How many times have you gone to the high street and said, ‘I’ve got an event and need a new top’? That is what everyone can stop tomorrow and we would see a massive change.

What about brands. What changes should they be making?

Product development teams need to rethink supply chains, from field to final, raw materials and traceability. Ask what you are designing and why, and look at your figures to see what’s selling. Also, how do you run your office, from packaging to staff lunches to water, to any single-use plastic you can eliminate, to which couriers you use.


SHOP: Our Top Ten Pieces From The John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl Collaboration

striped shirt1 of 10

John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl, Tencel™ Stripe Shirt, £99

striped pink dress2 of 10

John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl, Tencel™ Tie Neck Stripe Print Dress, £159

blue striped dress3 of 10

John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl, Tencel™ V-Neck Stripe Dress, £139

double-breasted blazer4 of 10

John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl, Tencel™ Double-Breasted Blazer, £159

peg-leg trousers5 of 10

John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl, Tencel™ Peg-Leg Trousers, £119

spot-print blouse6 of 10

John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl, Tencel™ Spot-Print Tie-Neck Blouse, £99

spot-print dress7 of 10

John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl, Tencel™ Gathered Spot Shirt Dress, £179

tie-waist dress8 of 10

John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl, Tencel™ Tie-Waist Stripe Dress, £139

leopard print skirt9 of 10

John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl, Tencel™ Leopard Print Skirt, £119

spotted top10 of 10

John Lewis & Partners x Mother of Pearl, Tencel™ Spot Print Cami, £59

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us