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Mother of Pearl Is a London Label to Watch

The brand is hitting its stride in its fourth year under Creative Director Amy Powney -- and U.S. buyers are taking note.

Color, pattern, embellishment, athleticwear: Those were the motifs that appeared again and again at London Fashion Week, and perhaps no label combined them quite as deliciously as Mother of Pearl, which staged its second Fashion Week presentation the day before editors caught their flights to Milan.

Mother of Pearl is almost old news in London's emerging design scene. The label was founded in 2002 by Maia Norman, a fashion stylist (and the former long-time partner of artist Damien Hirst), and Sue Foulston, a designer who also teaches at Central Saint Martins. In 2008, it relaunched with a more modern, sportier vibe, which continues today under the creative direction of Amy Powney, who has been working with the label since she graduated from Kingston University eight years ago. (She became creative director in 2010.)

Mother of Pearl has all the ingredients of a successful fashion label. The silhouettes are easy to wear, the prints are attractive and distinctive (each season, it partners with a new artist), and the price points are competitive and wide-ranging: A printed sweatshirt or jersey lounge pants will set you back less than $300, while a silk day-to-evening dress or crystal-embellished coat might cost $1,000 or more than twice that.

The bestselling pieces, Powney tells us, are the slip-on sneakers: simple canvas creations featuring the label's signature prints, which usually run around $400. For resort 2015, Mother of Pearl introduced its first bags -- a set of canvas clutches and a simple rucksack with those unmistakable prints -- which, frankly, weren't on par with the rest of the label's offerings to date. "That was just a small introduction, I didn't really feel like those were as successful as they should have been," Powney admits. Spring 2015's lineup was an improvement: Colorful, leather-backed envelope clutches plastered in paillettes were the mainstay, to be priced at $320 and up.

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With it's universally appealing aesthetic, it's no surprise that Mother of Pearl is growing quickly around the world. It seems particularly poised for a U.S. breakthrough. The label is already carried by Opening Ceremony in New York and Los Angeles and by Fivestory in New York, and online through Saks, Net-a-Porter, Moda Operandi, Shopbop and Ssense. Bergdorf Goodman picked up pieces from Mother of Pearl's resort collection for the first time -- with "a few more retailers in the pipeline for spring/summer," Powney says.

But don't expect Mother of Pearl to appear on the New York Fashion Week calendar anytime soon. Powney has been showing her collections privately in the U.S., mainly to press, for several seasons now -- but, at this point, it's just too costly to host a public presentation there. "I do have to admit that for the London designers it's so much more expensive to go over to the U.S., to fly everybody out and rent spaces," Powney says. "I think a lot of brands are quite keen to do it but for small brands it's quite difficult to cover the costs." Instead, she's thinking about moving beyond the presentation format, with plans to stage a full-on runway show in London next season. An e-commerce site is somewhere down the pipeline.

But for the immediate future, Powney will be fully focused on pre-fall. "We usually pick the fabrics for the next collection the next morning [after we show]," she says matter-of-factly. "You have to. [Our next collection] has to be ready by November." There's no rest for the wicked -- or the emerging designer.

Browse the brand's spring 2015 collection below.