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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That ’70s Party

In exactly four days I shall be attending my work company dress-up party. Theme? 1970s’ disco. I’m not even joking. I thought and thought whether it was worth it to invest into a very uncomfortable and totally un-re-wearable pair of white, knee-high platform boots, but then I decided that obviously that was a bad idea, and I always found the disco look so tacky, so I decided to compromise. I decided to go for a trendy, suave, beautiful and sexy hippy look. I wanted to go for Jessa’s look in Girls, wearing an ethereal, floral print dress like this

Or a pair of statement palazzo trousers, in heavenly silk, such as these

Or you know, I’d even be happy with a kimono

Look at those outfits – she’s always cool! But issue A: I can’t find any of these timeless silk pieces; and B: they wouldn’t suit me as I am only 5ft 3in.

So I decided to do an online search for “chic 70’s outfit” and I found this lovely little link
Here’s a sneak peak image from it, but please make sure you visit it as it’s worth it:

And then I couldn’t stop laughing for a good 15 minutes. How did it even come up in my “chic” outfit search? What were they thinking? Am I destined to look like one of them at the party? How sweaty is it going to be, in all of that polyester?

Please help.

My Trip to New York 2

Part 2 – The Fashion

In New York I had a great time finding shops I had previously heard about as well as stumbling into new places and walking in just to take a look and find unique pieces. Of course, I visited a huge amount of shops, but for the purposes of this blog I’ll try and keep my count down to the best four.

Catbird

This is a lovely, dinky, homely jewellery shop in Williamsburg. Here I finally found a pinky ring that wouldn’t make me look like Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses. They have an incredible selection of once-in-a-lifetime pieces that will leave you marvelling at their cases and windows. With designers and brands such as Jacquie Aiche, Dream Collective and Marian Maurer, they sell an array of delicate objects, ranging from jewellery to beauty products, home ornaments, cards and cosmetics. Here’s what I bought:

My pinky ring.

Catbird.

Jewellery display.

Flying A

This SoHo store is the epitome of cool and Michael there was very kind, helpful and warm. What more could you want? Along with their own brand, they retail plenty of vintage piece and brands like American Vintage, Hope, Marimekko and Fjallraven, the result is an indie look with European names. Here I bought an amazing red vintage dress with a geometric little pattern that looks like polka dots from a distance. My dress was placed in a clever, red zip bag which I now use every single day to carry my packed lunch to the office.

Flying A.

A wonderful vintage dress with a floral upper half.

Assorted bracelets.

My dress.

The dress collar.

A gorgeous embroidered purse.

Scarves.

A big selection of men’s shirts.

Stella Dallas

Easily the best vintage shop I’ve ever visited. It is based on the edges of Greenwich Village retail ‘40s–‘60s clothing and, despite it being quite small, and with a dated décor of yellow walls and tatty shelves, I found four – 4! Different pieces here: a warm Norwegian jumper which I’ll have to defend against my boyfriend’s grubby mitts, a flattering dress, a beautiful burgundy beaded silk top and an amazing, gorgeous floor-length, ivory rayon bed dress that is bound to make history. It features rather wide, lacy shoulder straps which continue as a pattern in different inserts on the chest. Never seen such a charming, timeless piece of underwear like it, vintage or not. I had to have it!

Stella Dallas is a bit tucked away.

A delicate, beaded evening jacket.

A huge collection of fur coats.

Tokyo 7

I believe this is somewhat of an institution in the East Village. Tokyo 7 is a huge consignment store that sells all sorts of high-end designer names such as Emporio Armani, Prada and Marni, all at very sensible prices. I bought a near-to-new pair of black Vivienne Westwood ankle wellies, which I’ve already used three times since – I do live in London after all.

How to Pack for a Beach Holiday – Go and Fetch Some Sunshine

Hey, I’m back!

I am very sorry for having been away for so long, but my schedule has been incredibly busy with that internship I mentioned here. But I’m free again now, so hopefully I should be able to keep you updated more often.

I am not going to get too comfy on this armchair, however, as I am soon to set off for the sandy, sun-kissed shores of Sardinia. With this in mind, I decided to write a post about what to pack on a late summer holiday.

First off: the luggage. If you are away for up to a week, there is no need to have a suitcase to check in. It is going to slow down your arrival and, needless to say, make your travel to and from the airport a lot harder. Get yourself a wheelie bag and a small purse to carry phone, earphones, passport + boarding pass and wallet, so that you’ll be able to fit it into the hand luggage, if needs be. Italian brands Carpisa and United Colors of Benetton are affordable yet very durable.

United Colours of Benetton. The smallest one is the perfect size for a week’s worth of summer clothes.

 

Carpisa. If you prefer a hardware design, this will be ideal.

 Both of these cabin-size bags are soft, which helps with the suitcase stacking, light, durable and have plenty of outside pockets for your book, iPad and camera.

Make sure you pack versatile clothes that can be dressed up or down. A good way to achieve this is to lay your outfits on your bed as you plan them day by day, which helps make matchable clothes stand out. Remember you only have a limited space in your bag so limit shoes to a pair of comfortable sandals to walk around pebbled alleys (which you will probably wear on the plane), a pair of flip flops for the beach and a pair of heels for the evening. With heels, the easier to slip off the better, in case you end up at a bar on a beach, so avoid multiple straps and laces.

Kurt Geiger. Easy chic daily sandals – currently on sale!

 

Miss Trish flip flops.

Developpa Louboutin. These hot wedges have a zip at the back for better wearability.

Make sure to bring a light-weight blazer to wear on the plane to fend off that freezing air con, which can also be used in the evenings when out. Little breezy dresses and short playsuits are great choices to minimise packing and adapt from day- to eveningwear.

L’Agence little white dress. A great day piece, match this buttoned-up dress with a black blazer and the above Louboutins for a clean-cut and trendy evening outfit.

 

Equipment playsuit. Black on yellow is a trend that has been with us from Spring ’12 thanks to Yigal Azrouël, Monique Lhuillier and Oscar de la Renta, and looks lovely on this flowery playsuit.

Don’t forget to pack a canvas, foldable beach bag!

Missoni canvas bag. Very colourful and summery.

 

Finally, pack as many bikinis as you like, they’re only tiny and it’s nice to show off different models when going back to the beach every day.

This Mara Hoffman bikini is one of my favourites for a bunch of reasons, but mostly because it channels the ‘90s trend and has a flattering bralette-shaped top which makes everything stay put and gives it a trendy finish at the back.

Mara Hoffman bikini. This bralette design is unusual and original.