Thoughtfully made, highly informative and accessible, director Becky Hutner’s documentary charts how luxury UK fashion company Mother of Pearl tackles the challenge they set themselves of developing a sub-label, No Frills, that makes only sustainable, ethically made clothing from Global Organic Textile Standard fabric. And lo and behold, the whole process is not as easy as sticking a leaf on the label and calling a product “green”.
In fact, it involves examining every step of long and winding supply chains. Mother of Pearl’s creative director Amy Powney, the daughter of old-school hippies, and her right-hand woman Chloe Marks are seen mulling over whether, for instance, if they are to use wool (a versatile, biodegradable fibre that’s nevertheless a by-product of the meat industry), where can they source wool that’s soft enough for skin-contact but doesn’t involve mulesing and other treatments that are cruel to animals? Synthetic fibres, on the other hand, wouldn’t directly harm furry friends, but most of them are highly polluting if made from petrochemicals.
Throughout the film, Hutner flashes up statements about the amount of plastic fibres in the ocean thought to be generated by the textile industry, how much water is required to make a pair of cotton jeans, and so on. Still, the film-makers can’t avoid affecting the environment at least a little bit as they rack up airmiles flying to South America where they meet wool supplier Pedro Otegui. But overall Mother of Pearl’s sincerity is palpable, as is its commitment to making as ethical and sustainable a product as it can, which puts it at the vanguard of an industry that’s only just starting to follow suit.
There may be lingering questions about what exactly Mother of Pearl use to make those pretty white “pearl” buttons to create their signature softly pleated shoulder details, but personally, as an enthusiastic home knitter-spinner-sewist, this is pure textile porn. I can’t think of anything more pleasurable than watching heavy machinery extrude scoured fibres, weave yarn into bolts of jacquard or use lasers to create whiskering on denim cloth. The fact that the end-product clothes are genuinely elegant and eminently wearable is the whipped cream on top.