Mother of Pearl
Amy Powney, the creative director of Mother of Pearl, is vivacious, talkative, and rather opinionated: just like the clothes she designs. Producing frothy dresses and floral prints, sporty, slouchy pants and sharply tailored trousers cut through with shiny pearls, her take on design is a whimsical pastiche of ideas, but it works. Presiding over a small design house (by fashion-house scale) doesn’t stop Powney from thinking big. Exhausted after the constant pressure to produce collection after collection, she drew herself a bottom line and changed her business model, reducing her output to two collections a year. Instinctively daring, and innovative too, what she really wants is to retain the sense of unbridled fun that lies at the core of her brand.
Born in Belton, Texas, Levi Palmer developed a penchant for the gothic-inclined designers Gaultier and McQueen at a young age but, living in a small, rural community, couldn’t work out how to turn his passion for design into a career until he moved to Dallas, and found a college that taught pattern-cutting. Everything fell neatly into place. He soon met Matthew Harding, and together the pair set up their own label, dedicated to making the perfect shirt. “We viewed the shirt as a blank canvas that would allow us to play creatively. Logistically, it also made sense because we were poor and all we needed to start the label was one roll of white poplin.”
Sophie Hulme, purveyor of sleek, square handbags, originally wanted to be a fine artist. Fixated with drawing and painting, she went to art school, where she decided to study fashion, too. It was a good decision: she never looked back. After graduating, she showcased a capsule collection of bags, which immediately got snapped up by Selfridges, and sold out within two weeks. Now, some years later, and managing a large, flourishing business, Hulme has successfully overcome the risks that threaten a small brand suddenly faced with an onslaught of attention. What does she love about British fashion? “The press are really supportive. Everyone is always on the lookout for great new brands. It makes it a really exciting place to be as a designer.”
Born in China, Huishan Zhang moved to New Zealand and Paris, before arriving in London to study at St Martins. After graduating, he garnered a reputation for his deft ability to fluidly marry Eastern and Western elements within his work. “It has always been a vision of mine to create something that bridges cultures and tradition. Something that stands the test of time and creates an everlasting culture,” he says. “Through design and my collections, I feel like I am reaching out to many women from many different parts of the world creating a Huishan Zhang aesthetic.” What are his future plans? The designer has a grand vision. “To grow my brand into an everlasting house of fashion.”
Famous for his acutely precise tailoring, designer Osman focuses on wardrobe staples: a sharp blazer, a timeless white shirt. So successful were his designs that Osman analyzed his bestsellers and launched the Perfect Five, a capsule collection of five pieces that every woman needs in her wardrobe, which included a sweeping pair of culottes and a brisk, cropped, high-waisted pair of trousers.
Hannah Weiland started her label by designing a bright, gaudy, faux-fur coat that was soon snapped up by Alexa Chung et al., who flitted between various engagements swathed in layers of striped Shrimps. Now, her brand has grown significantly, and has moved beyond coats to incorporate a whole range of clothing, all stitched with Weiland’s uniquely surrealist eye. It’s no surprise that she is influenced by Impressionist art: her oversized shapes and dramatic detailing are delightfully weird. What does she love about British fashion? “I love the sense of humour that surrounds it and the fact that there really are no rules: creativity runs free!”
Sisters Erica and Faye Toogood launched their unisex label back in 2013, with a small collection of eight coats. Now, they have expanded their output, but refuse to compromise on quality: the pair are known for their focus on craft, and use small, British manufacturers. Their pieces, very sculptural and casting strange silhouettes, all tell their own, unique stories against the prevailing backdrop of fast fashion.—Isobel Thompson
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