The Louis Vuitton S/S ’14 show in Paris this year was undoubtedly the most spectacular of the season. As the last show created for the fashion house by Marc Jacobs, the extravagant display included all the highlights of the designer’s previous catwalk shows: the horse carousel, the fountain and the escalators were all there to remind us of how fruitful this 16-year-long relationship was. However, this time everything was black. From the stage props to every piece of clothing (save for the occasional mid-wash boyfriend denim), no other colour was showcased. Models walked solemnly with highly ornate, 5-foot-tall feather headpieces that echoed Native American themes, a look that was mirrored in the movement of the fountain water. Each garment was rich in details, with micro nets, polka dots, feathers, sequins and diamantes juxtaposed to create layers.
The predominant decade evoked was the 1920s, with tunic dresses, crew neck and demure shapes, with a nod to the Victoriana trend in the white, severe hair and make up. The whole show lent flashbacks to a derelict-yet-opulent, coal-soaked Dickensian scenery, which was strangely but perfectly offset by eighties-inspired pieces such as short, boxy blazers, circus leotards, tough boots and biker jackets. It is sad to see such a talent go, but it is time to see Marc Jacobs focus on his own brilliant lines and make room for his replacement, former Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquière. Those are some big shoes to fill.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am a great fan of J.Crew, so as soon as I heard that they were having a flash pop-up store event in London on the 24 and 25 May, I immediately put it in my diary. J.Crew’s highly anticipated opening in the UK in autumn 2013 was made even more exciting by the subtle but nonetheless definite hype of this event, which took place at the Western Transit Shed, an eclectically dressed urban warehouse conversion just a stone’s throw from King’s Cross Station, to sample J.Crew’s new range, take a few snaps and generally be a bit nosey.
On display were a dozen or so key looks from the upcoming Fall/Winter collection. The most prominent new trends were woolly print-on-prints, beautifully intricate gem-filled jewellery, Aztec prints, embroidery on clean-cut heavy-weight blazers, and brocade and geometric patterns. The exquisite wool and cashmere pieces modelled clean and simple lines, and were well complemented by the busy Central American prints. For men, there were work boots, puff coats and furry hoodies.
The only pieces actually available for sale were their classic cashmeres – in a small selection of colours. They also provided personalised monogramming, which won’t be available on the UK website, and customised, handmade collars to be worn on t-shirts. Sadly, they had run out of my size in the navy cashmere, but I’ll make sure to buy it online and perhaps try my luck and have it monogrammed at the Regent Street shop once it opens in the autumn.
More often than not, I am admittedly too quick to complain if something is not right with a service or a shop, so it’s only fair to praise a company if they do something well. So this is a quick post to let you know of a great service I received online about a fortnight ago. I promise you I was not paid or sponsored to do this, I just thought it was only fair.
I was browsing on ASOS.com to find a bag that I could use for my gym clothes. Until last week I was using a blue, “sporty” rucksack, i.e., a most unattractive piece of dorkness. Thankfully, the zip finally broke and I needed to find a better way to pack my sporty gear. So I was roaming freely on the website when suddenly I noticed a pop-up widget at the bottom right-hand corner of the page that said “Chat to a Personal Stylist”. I wondered whether they were going to try and sell me anything or if they would be getting my style or listen to my needs, so I thought I’d give that a try.
I was not disappointed! The girl at the other end of the ether was called Chloe M. She asked me what I was looking for and what my budget was. I said I wasn’t sure whether I was planning to invest into a good-quality piece or if I was after something cheap and cheerful. She talked me through my options and spent about 20 minutes looking for what could be suitable and in the end, as there was currently nothing suitable on the ASOS website, she didn’t try to push me into buying anything, which was much appreciated, and told me when they were likely to receive new stock I might be interested in.
Although it is true that I did not end up buying anything from the website this time, her attitude was the right one and didn’t force me into purchasing something I didn’t need, so I will definitely go back to see if anything else more suitable has arrived, and I’ll also be looking to use the stylist advisor service again. I believe this is still the beta version of this online service, but hopefully they’ll see how good it is and make it a staple.
On a slightly different note, I ordered a pair of sling-back shoes from ASOS a few days before this episode and unfortunately the sling back on the left shoe was slightly loose. I contacted their customer service Twitter page and in the space of an hour they apologised and had already put in the post a new pair! I couldn’t recommend this website enough. Way to go, ASOS!
Last week my friend Sara asked me if we could write a humorous post together where she would ask me a few questions about the latest trends and a couple of beauty doubts. I couldn’t say no! Check it out:
Make sure you watch the Serial Mom clip.