Mason Bentley – A Truly British Label

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the launch of the first capsule collection by the brand new label Mason Bentley, created by south-west London darlings Anna Mason and Kate Bentley.

Anna Mason and Kate Bentley

Anna Mason and Kate Bentley

It all started with their blog MasonBentleyStyle and a small business idea of customising vintage pieces. From that the label We Love Vintage was born. However, the response was high and they quickly felt the need to expand and create more. Today they have more than 1,000 followers and plenty of plans.

The Grace top and the Audrey skirt. Photo source: MasonBentleyStyle

The Grace top and the Audrey skirt. Photo source: MasonBentleyStyle

The collection presented at the launch was divided in three small parts: the winter, summer and staples mini collections. The winter section was mostly white, beige and black broderie anglaise dresses, tops and a beautifully refined skirt with a contrast lining. The summer collection was the perfect selection of pieces for a weekend on the beach, with a pink and blue palette and beautifully bright, bohemian-print dresses and a bikini. And the staple, transseasonal section consisted of silk blouses and dresses in mostly kitty (medium light) grey, white and nude shades. This last part included Mandarin collars, French seams, simple lines, extremely detailed finishes and playful tassels around the neck line. They source their fabrics from Italy, France and New Zealand and do not compromise on quality.

Beautiful summer print

Beautiful summer print

The event was brilliant, and I managed to speak to Anna first briefly about exactly what they created and then interviewed Kate. Here’s a transcript of my questions and Kate’s answers.

Where are you girls from and how did you meet?
We met four years ago, when our daughters went to nursery school together, and we live on the same street. Anna is originally from Bath and I am from London.

How did you decide to work in fashion together?
We both knew that we had many talents that had been put on hold by having children, and when brainstorming ideas it emerged that we both had a love of vintage so we went from there. Starting by doing We Love Vintage was an easier way to start a fashion label but the problem was we didn’t have different sizes and once one item went that was it, we couldn’t replicate it, it was a one off every time so there was no scalability. Therefore we thought “If we can make that work then we’ll roll that into making our own label.” So we’ve used all the income we’ve made from We Love Vintage to actually start the Mason Bentley label.

The Bardot dress. Photo source: MasonBentleyStyle

The Bardot dress. Photo source: MasonBentleyStyle

Do you make the pieces yourselves?
No, we have an atelier that makes them for us – in fact it’s the same factory that produces pieces for Victoria Beckham. We have a seamstress we work with and she helps us with the patterns. Anna, however, does all of the drawing up [Anna worked in the past for the design teams of great names such as Valentino, Karl Lagerfeld and MaxMara], then we make the patterns and finally we send them to the atelier to get them produced.

The Vreeland shirt in silk. Photo source: MasonBentleyStyle

The Vreeland shirt in silk. Photo source: MasonBentleyStyle

What are the roles between the two of you – who designs and who deals with the public?
Anna does design and I look after the business side.

I absolutely love your prints in the summer part of the collection. Where did you take inspiration from, for this whole collection?
This collection is very much based on some of the vintage ideas that we had with the We Love label. We took some patterns from that and then we developed further. So it’s quite a sort of vintage feel, modern vintage feel.

A particular of the Bergman summer dress

Details of the Bergman summer dress

So can you mix and match all prints with any design, size and shape within each collection?
Yes, but only within each part for now. Because we make them to order, we can specify materials, lengths and sleeves to a certain extent as well. So it’s not bespoke but it’s made to order, which makes it slightly more exclusive. It gives us a good starting point.

Where do you see this label going – are you going to open an online store? Design a new collection?
Yeah, we’re definitely going to open an online store, then we’re going to do transseasonal pieces that we’ll gradually weave into the collection as well so rather than doing solely winter and summer collections, we’ll probably be more drip feeding in designs.

The bikini from the summer mini collection

The bikini from the summer mini collection

So the quality and bespoke nature of the designs in reminiscing a designer’s method whereas the production side more akin to retailer’s.
Yes, that’s correct.

What are your favourite brands at the moment?
Chloé and Isabel Marant, who to us represents the “cool French” and in the same way we’d like to be the “cool British”.

I have to say I really noticed and love the attention to detail in each design. The sense of quality really comes across.
Thank you. We think that the inside should always be as beautiful as the outside so if you look at our gorgeous skirt, all lined beautifully, when you walk along, it kicks open on the pleat and you get the flash of colour.

A detail from the beautiful Valentina dress, from the winter mini collection...

A detail from the beautiful Valentina dress, from the winter mini collection…

... and the Valentina dress in its entirety. This is my favourite piece! Photo source: MasonBentleyStyle

… and the Valentina dress in its entirety. This is my favourite piece! Photo source: MasonBentleyStyle

Who is your target customer?
The Mason Bentley woman is clever, independent, calm, sophisticated and knowledgeable. I don’t think we have a particular age group but we’re certainly designing for our own age group (early thirties to mid-forties). We are aware that women don’t want to expose their arms all the time, that they want certain areas covered.  It’s also about not necessarily wanting to do the tight skinny dresses but wanting a slightly more loose, elegant attitude to dressing, so that you’re feminine and sexy without being overtly so. But you still want to feel sexy, like the top I’m currently wearing has a slightly batwing sleeve so we don’t want to have that sort of cutting into your arm, it’s got that looseness and freedom.

What is your favourite trend at the moment?
I don’t dress too much in trends, I‘m at that stage where I found the style that works for me and I’m dressing that. There are certainly people I’d say I love what they wear, people like Emmanuelle Alt, Garance Dore’, Amanda Brooks, that sort of cool attitude.

The Bergman in black broiderie anglais. Photo source: MasonBentleyStyle

The Bergman in black broderie anglaise. Photo source: MasonBentleyStyle

Mason Bentley is a truly British label, and it is refreshing and exciting to see a brand being born and developed with such enthusiasm in these uncertain times. With their uncompromising attitude towards quality and detail, I have no doubt that this clever duo will do amazingly well, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what they are going to offer to us next.

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My Trip to New York 1

Part One – the Food

A few weeks ago, I returned from New York, where my friend Sara and I stayed in Brooklyn at Robin’s, the swellest girl in the whole city. It was my first time in the US, and, despite knowing that the Big Apple is not a true representation of the whole of the United States (just like London is not really synecdochic of the UK), being there highlighted how New York and London are so very different. Sure enough, Manhattan’s vibrant streets were heaving with people of all sorts of backgrounds and trades, buzzing with flickering lights beckoning passers-by, and steaming with an endless array of memorable scents, just like London’s Westend. But it made me realise that the British are a population of their own. With their self-pride, friendliness, exaggerated mannerisms, heartfelt involvement and loud enthusiasm when saying even the mildest of things, I would be more inclined to likening New Yorkers to the French or the Italians, rather than to their British counterparts. Of course it is not right to generalise to a smaller degree, such as saying whether I found one people more helpful in giving directions than the other, but I can definitely say that New York seemed to hum that little bit louder.

The food was outstanding, though that could have been that Sara and I were painstakingly selective when choosing where to have our next meal, but my favourite restaurants, which I would definitely recommend, were as follows:

Babbo

Not that it needs recommendation – this restaurant was the most up-market stop of the whole trip. Robin, Sara and I felt very much like grown-ups here, and despite only sharing a starter, a bottle of wine, a dessert, and only having a full primo (pasta main) each, we left feeling very full, which made this restaurant surprisingly affordable, particularly for its atmosphere and outstanding quality. The waiters were also impeccable – we were highly impressed by how they scooped up the crumbs from the tables making a spoon dance and glide on the tablecloth. The jewel-clad lady sitting next to us even commented on that little trick to the Jeeves-like waiter.

Luke’s on the Upper West Side

This has to be my second favourite meal of the trip, simply because now, if I were ever allowed one last meal in my life, my choice would have shifted from Osso Buco to a mighty, mayo-free but butter-soaked lobster roll. The huge chunks of lobster are velvety and melt in your mouth faster than you can say “fishing lobsters in Maine”. This roll is unfussy, simple and doesn’t need anything else added. It’s perfect. Go have it.

Luke’s on the Upper West Side. Picture taken by Sara.

Lobster Roll

Katz’s Delicatessen

This classic sammich deli did not disappoint. The sharpness of the pickles and sauerkraut cut through the richness of the pastrami, and the wholeness of the rye bread binds everything together beautifully. Needless to say, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, and in hindsight we should have just ordered one to share. After we were done with (half of our) platefuls, we both silently pretended we still had a good reason to sit there for a little longer, just because neither of us could even waddle. And no, I didn’t do a Meg Ryan impression, the place was so rammed and loud that nobody would’ve noticed, anyway.

Sara with two strangers.

What she’s having.

Shake Shack

Ooh that Shack-cago hot dog was excellent, and the curly fries were a bit different – was it maybe the first time I ever had curly fries? I think it might well have been.*

A collage of our Shake Shack experience made by Sara.

230 Fifth

We didn’t eat here, but I had a delicious Dirty Vodka Martini and the view from the rooftop was breath-taking. It was a sunny yet windy late afternoon, so they provided warm, hooded red capes for everyone. Doesn’t get much better than sipping a vodka drink in a dressing gown in front of a beautiful view – and nobody seemed to care! I really loved the vintage-like lanterns all around the rooftop.

Another cool collage made by Sara.

A small part of the view from the rooftop.

Beautiful lanterns.

Watch this space, as I am soon to post about the little fashion gems I found in New York.

*I have since discovered that what we ate were actually crinkle fries — goes to show…!