Acne Studios Morning Gabardine Dress - £363   Charlie May Leather Foil Jacket - £625
Blake LDN Foxborough Sweater - £120   Topshop Unique Pool Sliders - £55
Etre Cecile Bad Ass Paris - £70   V Simplicity Tier Ring - £75
Merchant Archive Leather Tote Bag - £430   Moxham Otto Silver - £62

Mother Of Pearl x Harrods' MoP SHoP

There's some genuinely special about Mother Of Pearl, everything from the branding, their love of new collaborations each season, to their passion for sticking to their roots. And the clothes? My jaw drops every time I see the new collection in person, with it's simple minimal silhouettes, bold use of colour and of course, the prints! The graphic printed works of art keep me guessing as the brand works with an artist to produce a print each season. Also, I'm not one for using trend forecasters' phrases, but this is the real sports-luxe right here. Buttery soft leathers in unusual 'leather colours', duffle bags, elasticated waists, beautifully finished gun-metal toggles, oh and did I mention the Pierre Hardy hi-tops? All this sportiness probably spawned from avid sportswoman, Creative Director Maia Norman, not that we're saying you should go to the gym in her clothes, they're too good for that!

The result is a collection that is totally wearable, edgy and dare I say it, chic, (and I rarely use this word). I could go on and on. But the real cornerstone to Mother Of Pearl is the art of collaboration, now in their sixth season, previous collaborators include Keith Tyson, Jim Lambie, Mat Collishaw and Carsten Holler. Long term partner of artist Damien Hirst, Maia has always had a strong connection with the art world, and it shows! The brand has a natural affinity with artists, so natural in fact, that sometimes you forget it's a two way collaboration and that they've come up with these great ideas and prints without the artists' at all. It's what I like to call "The Mother Of Pearl Effect".

We speak to the lovely Amy Powney, Head of Design at Mother Of Pearl at it's latest MoP SHoP in luxury department store Harrods.

Could you tell me more about the S/S 12 collection that is in Harrods the next two weeks?

We always work with a different artist, and that's the cornerstone to Mother Of Pearl, and Maia Norman who is the Creative Director of the company, chose Fiona Banner. Usually she will pick artists that she wants to work with and Fiona was one of them.

Luckily, when you get to work with artists, my first hand research is already done for me, because I have such a brilliant body of work to look at. And we just go from there, I think Fiona is quite conceptual, so it was much more text work, which is slightly different from what Mother Of Pearl have done before. I really played around with colour in a different to try and tie the looks together.

How did the relationship of working with Fiona differ to previous collaborations?

Everyone's completely different actually, so far everyone's been absolutely brilliant. With Fiona we actually had more interaction because she's based in London, not far from us. Whereas Fred for instance in based in New York, so it's more of an email relationship.

Fiona, more than any of the other artists was more particular about the finished garments because her work is so conceptual, for example, with Fiona's Black Flags, piece (which is the dripping bunting print) the concept is that it's black, so we couldn't just go and change colour and idea behind her work. So we had to work quite close with Fiona, which was nice because it felt more interactive.

The previous artists were relaxed about change leaving room to play with the colour of their artworks as their work was more visual and less conceptual. But these differences from artist to artist is what makes collaboration interesting and inspiring.

Would you say Fiona was more dominating in the creative process?

She's actually an easy-going, great person but she's just very passionate about her work and was less likely to sit back and hand her work over to us. She wanted to know how it was being used because she didn't want the concept and ideas to be stripped away after the collaboration with Mother Of Pearl.

How did the pop up concession for Harrods come about?

We had a meeting with Harrods, and obviously it's such a great store, and they loved what we did. We've had a history of doing what we call 'MoP SHoPs', which we did at Other Criteria, who we've just done another window display there. We've done one at the Goss Michael Foundation in Dallas, randomly and we did one at SHOWstudio. So it's just a natural progression really and I think it's nice to house and explain the stories behind the collaborations with artists to Harrod's customers and people who might not have heard of Mother Of Pearl or the artists involved.

Who did you work with for the A/W 12 collection?

This is in collaboration with Fred Tomaselli, who is an American artist, his work is slightly more visual, so it more print heavy. His concept is that he collages everything and then places it under a layer of thick resin. Put you'll see on the garments and look books, from afar what looks like a butterfly is actually a collage lots of things put together to form what looks like a butterfly. He's brilliantly visual, so it's a really easy transition onto the clothes. We also worked with Swarovski for the embellished gloves and shirt/coat collars. Because Fred's work is collage, embellishment is such a natural way to translate that, so this is the first season we've used such heavy embellishments.

The trainers are by Pierre Hardy, he's done is typical hi top trainers and we always work it into the collection with matching colours or prints we've already used on garments. We'll continue to collaborate with him for many future collections because we're getting a good following of the Pierre Hardy sneakers and it's become a bit of a cult in Japan. It's another natural collaboration for Mother Of Pearl because of it's sporty silhouettes, it just makes sense.

What I love about Mother Of Pearl is that it always retains it's strong sporty silhouette throughout all it's collections but combined with a high end, luxury aesthetic.

I think Mother Of Pearl as a brand produces really wearable product at the end of the day. Because we change artists every season we still want to keep the signature of what we do at Mother Of Pearl with the silhouettes. Maybe if you're a designer like Rick Owens, because it's always dark, you can change the silhouettes, the shapes, and finishes. But because the print always changes we like to keep the silhouettes as our constant.

How does Maia choose the artists?

It depends, some she wants to work with because she knows them, and it's natural progression because it's easy to work with someone you know. With Fred Tomaselli, funnily enough is the reason we started artist collaborations. Years ago, when Maia started the brand, she absolutely loved (and still loves) Fred's work and asked him if she could use his work and because the brand was so new at the time, Fred wasn't sure. So Maia asked if she could make a print that looks like Fred's, because they're friends, he said yes, and that was how we started working with artists. Six seasons on, we showed Fred every collection we've ever done, telling him how the brand is doing really well and that we'd still love to work with him and he replied saying yes.

Maia has such great access to different artists and it's a nice way to work because it's completely different to taking in visual references like every other fashion designer, so it's refreshing way to work.

Do you see Maia choosing more contemporary graphic artists/illustrators over fine artists?

I think so, our main collections will continue to work with established creatives, but we'll be working on our first pre-fall collection this year, where we will work with more emerging creatives. So we might try different genres we haven't tried before. But I think no matter we'll try to keep it visual whether it's illustration or photography, so that it's always visual feast. But I think we have a duty to our customer base and the brand, to not go too far away from what we've been doing, and for collections to still reflect Mother Of Pearl.

What we are doing is more and more one off projects like this Polly Morgan T shirt which is in the Collaborate newspaper. The Collaborate paper is a project we did when we had our pop up shop at SHOWstudio, we decided to do it all about different collaborations, some not Mother Of Pearl related. This spread we asked our favourite artists and musicians to play the game Consequences, where you write/draw something on the piece of paper and fold it over until you're left with a mis-matching story/picture.

Where do you the Mother Or Pearl brand going?

I see the brand growing, with the same idea, with the strong silhouettes with wearable product. And what's brilliant is every season it's reinvented by the different artist. And then I'd like to see the brand do more creative one-off projects like the newspaper, the Polly Morgan T shirt because we can just dip in and out of the working process. The projects give you a chance to experience different things but to be honest I think as long we continue to work with artists/creatives we love, that's what excites me!

Harrods will host the Mother Of Pearl MoP SHoP until Friday 30 March on the First Floor, Womenswear Contemporary Department.

Louisa Lau
09:03 - 21/03/12