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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Paul Smith Creates a Limited Edition Bottle Design for Evian

The marketing news website http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/ reported on 5 October 2009 that quirky British designer Sir Paul Smith has created this year’s Christmas limited edition water bottle for Evian.

The French mineral water company started this new tradition in 2008, when it partnered with Christian Lacroix to obtain their first limited edition bottle design. The 2009 version of the bottle was designed by Jean Paul Gautier and this year Sir Paul Smith has been working on the 2010 project.

The renowned Brit fashion icon has created a festive-themed, whimsical-designed bottle featuring his signature stripes in vibrant colours wrapped around its neck and five different caps to collect.

As reported by the website www.luxist.com, this latest creation is also designed to echo Evian’s latest youth-oriented advertisement campaign. In the promotional video, made during the promotional photo shoot that was based in his studio, Smith said: “My whole life is about being childlike […], which means that you have a lateral mind and you’re very curious […]. That’s why this room is just full of toys, beautiful books, strange objects, good fun things [from which] you can get great inspiration. Life is about living young, being youthful and enjoying yourself everyday”. The whole video is available on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzPyXPzy6ZY.

Picture source: http://www.daaamn.com/window-shopping/paul-smith-pour-evian

The bottles are currently only available for pre-ordering on www.ShopEvian.com, and will be sent out from 31 October 2009. However, they should make their way to fine dining establishments and gourmet retailers nationwide around the beginning of November. This partnership will be supported by advertising as well as PR as part of the £7m brand marketing investment for 2009.

This initiative, however, was bound to be controversial and, as predicted, it received both good and bad responses. Delphine Hirasuna published on www.atissuejournal.com “These days selling bottled water has become harder with countless brands vying for market share and sustainability proponents urging people to drink water filtered from the tap, even adding the bubbly themselves. With its designer bottles, Evian, owned by Danone Waters of America, isn’t touting how its product tastes, but how its bottles look. At US $13.95 for a single 750ml bottle and US $118 for a 12-bottle case, what consumers are buying is imaginative packaging that happens to have water inside”.

Others have commented that fashion designers are firstly artists, and that art and creativity should not be sold to a money-making multinational company like Evian.

One of the comments about this news on the Marketing Magazine website was “I thought designers were all going ‘green’ these days. This is a mistake in my book, particularly with the possible move towards 20p/500 ml on street taps in the pipeline”.

Coincidentally, other drink producers have recently embraced this trend too, such as Coca Cola with its collaboration with Nathalie Rykiel, Chivas Regal whiskey with Alexander McQueen and 1800 Tequila with its competition for new up-and-coming artists.

Paul Smith opened his first shop in London in 1987 and has been creating quirky yet classic (and therefore commercially popular) pieces ever since, his main collection being menswear. Smith was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 after nearly three decades as a menswear icon. Since May 2008 Paul Smith has been writing a fashion blog for http://www.vogue.co.uk (http://www.vogue.co.uk/blogs/fashion-designers/paul-smith/090929-paul-smith-campaign-and-london-fash.aspx).