Fashion Reimagined: "Can I Meet Your Sheep?"

Words by
Melanie Rickey

17th February 2023

The long awaited documentary Fashion Reimagined premiered last night at the launch of London Fashion Week, just hours after sustainable champion Dame Vivienne Westwood’s memorial at Southwark Cathedral. Hosted by environmentalist and former model, Lily Cole, the evening set the mood to celebrate Westwood's legacy and urge us all to learn lessons from Amy Powney, the heroine of Fashion Reimagined.

Charting five years in the life of designer Amy Powney, Fashion Reimagined follows her journey as she attempts to create a luxury fashion collection using cotton and wool she can trace all the way back to the fields and animals which grew them.

Amy Powney and llamas
Amy Powney in the Andes

This film is undoubtedly a story for our climate-changing times. Highlighting the bare facts of why fashion is so unbelievably damaging to the planet, it also demonstrates what must change, and then, miraculously, shows that change begin to take place.

Filming began on a whim, in 2017, when Powney, a determinedly calm Lancashire woman who was raised off grid by her parents, won £100,000 from the Vogue Fashion Fund, and decided to use the winnings to make a fully traceable collection for her label Mother of Pearl called No Frills.

Amy Powney at the studio
Amy Powney at work in her studio

Canadian film-maker Becky Hutner asked if she could film her story, and the pair, alongside Chloe Marks, Mother of Pearl’s product developer, set off to find the source of the fibres that make the fabrics they wished to use. You’d think this would be a straightforward task. Not at all. It’s in the unravelling of this conundrum with visits to Paris, Peru and Uruguay that the film holds its power.

Despite her love for clothes, Amy’s upbringing means she has always felt conflicted about her role in an industry with such an absurdly outsized carbon footprint. One sequence showing the number of countries a cotton shirt has to pass through before arriving to its end user is particularly sobering. Yet most of us have no idea that the clothes we wear are better travelled than we are, and that of the people who make them, only 2% earn a living wage.

Amy Powney Fashion Reimagined
Fashion Reimagined

“As a designer you’re trained to draw a garment and then say to a product developer: ‘Right, go make it for me,’” she says.  “We flipped the entire thing on its head. We said, these are the fibres and fabrics we’re happy with. Now what can I make with this stuff?” 

Amy’s quest for full traceability is best summed up when she calls the sustainable Uruguayan sheep farmer Pedro Otegui to ask him, “Can I come and visit your sheep?” Which she does, meeting some adorable llamas on the way. Getting to the root of cotton production is another matter altogether.

Amy, Chloe and the affable Pedro are the absolute heroes of Fashion Reimagined. Director Becky Hutner too. Its most poignant moment is seeing Amy realise, after feeling ready to give up on her career, that she is finally doing the thing she was put on this planet to do. Make clothes the way they should be made, with respect to the materials that make them, and the planet that grows them.

To watch this film is to feel your outlook shift. You won’t see your wardrobe, or your clothes, in the same way again.

Fashion Reimagined is released in UK & Irish cinemas 3rd March 2023