When I won the BFC/ Vogue Fashion Fund award in 2017, I knew I wanted to make my brand, Mother of Pearl, more sustainable. My graduate collection had been all about sustainability, and over the years, as I learned more about the industry, I felt things were only getting worse in terms of fashion’s hugely damaging impact on the planet. As a designer, I was getting pushed harder and harder; my agents would tell me to churn out more collections, produce more pieces. They’d say, “You’ve got to do shoes, you’ve got to do bags.” In the end, I thought: this is madness.
That’s why I started on my personal mission to unravel our supply chain, which is shown in Fashion Reimagined. We started off with cotton and wool, as I’d decided early on that I wanted to stick to natural fibres, as synthetics come with a whole host of issues. For me, the dream was to go to the cotton fields and meet a cotton picker that picked the cotton that would then go into my garment. Unfortunately, that romantic idea quickly disappeared as I discovered the industrial process just doesn’t work like that. If you’re a cotton spinner, you don’t just buy from one farm, you buy from multiple places. So, one ball of yarn could have cotton from multiple fields in it.
After doing all our research, we did find out that you can get certificates of origin for the country where the cotton was sourced. And of course, you can get certifications like GOTS, which certifies that the fibres are organic. For the most part, we now source our cotton from Turkey, because it’s one of the biggest producers of organic cotton. We also try to keep our suppliers as close to home as possible, to reduce our carbon footprint.
While we try to source all of our materials as responsibly as possible, the hardest thing to palate was how difficult life is for a lot of cotton farmers. In India, hundreds of cotton farmers die by suicide each year, as it’s so difficult to make a living – largely due to the role of massive corporations. It’s completely devastating. Learning this, it made me feel such a duty of care towards those in the supply chain.