The Ethnic Trend for Spring/Summer 2014

For the past six weeks I’ve been attending a fashion journalism taught by the lovely Harriet Worsley at the London Journalism Centre. Last week’s homework was to identify a trend in this year’s fashion weeks and find three outfits that support it. Here is what I found. What do you think?

Ethnic

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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.

J.Crew Previews New Collection ahead of its Upcoming UK Opening

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.JCrew 003JCrew 006JCrew 012JCrew 011

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.JCrew 010JCrew 001JCrew 002JCrew 009

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.JCrew 007JCrew 004JCrew 005JCrew 008

Cold Summer Outfit

Believe it or not, being Italian, one of the reasons why I decided to move to the UK was the climate. I never really liked excessively hot weather and where I’m from, that’s what you get from mid-June to early August. I always loved the British summer, with a gentle breeze, a shy sun and the occasional need of a light cardigan.

All this was true until last year. This year, things have changed. We saw one week of scorching heat at the end of May and then back to 10°C, rain and gusts of ice-cold wind. Which means that the sunglasses in my handbag looking at me with hopeful little eyes are completely redundant, just like all my sandals, floaty dresses and summery hats in my room.

To try to raise the morale in my wardrobe, I decided to keep warm while wearing summery colours. So here’s what I put together.

Dust pink silk shirt and cashmere and lace cropped jumper from Italy, pink gold necklace and pendants from Braï Jewellery, leather-look leggings from ebay, pastel-green Superga plimsolls, beige trench coat from Banana Republic and Classic Q Hillier Hobo bag Marc by Marc Jacobs in black with golden hardware.

Marni at H&M Sale – Sometimes They Come Back

Firstly, I would like to apologise and say that I know I’ve been terrible for not writing in an age, but I do have a couple of good excuses. Some of my absence can be put down to me being a little poorly. Nothing serious, not kicking the bucket just yet, only nagging little pains that stole all my time as I took partial residency in my doctor’s waiting room. The rest of my time has been absorbed by the editorial internship I’ve been doing at the great Kings Chelsea Magazine, which is launching in June. Yay!

Admittedly, I discovered that adjusting to a full-time shift job and a part-time internship is harder than anticipated, particularly when those two workplaces and my house are based respectively in the south, west and east of London, but it’s definitely worth it. This internship will go on until mid-August, so I am afraid that until then I’ll probably be a little out of sight. But bear with me and after that I shall be even better (or I’ll try, at least). I wish I were doing something a little more senior with my few years of experience as an editor, but sadly, fashion publishing regards itself as a different kettle of fish, and unless you have relevant fashion experience you need to start from the bottom again. So, full to my eyes with humble pie, I ping-pong across London for the best part of my days.

With that out of the way, in the UK, H&M have collected all the neglected leftover Marni stock from the back of their warehouses and placed it on sale. This reminded me how I actually did go on a mission on the line’s launch day and took pictures to write about the collection, but ended up doing nothing with them.

I remember getting to the flagship store on Regent Street at 9 am on the dot, its opening time, and asking what the queuing system was. It soon transpired that I was way too late for their manically organised schedule, and that all the wristbands (colour-coded depending on the time you were supposed to get in) had all already been given to people queuing outside since 7 am.

Anyone with an entry bracelet was placed in a group of a dozen people and had 15 minutes to enter, explore and ransack the designated Marni area, which was a cluttered, crowded, poky little affair of about 2 m2 with naturally very little room to roam around. A man with a headset microphone would aggressively shout “Ten minutes left!” “Five minutes left!” (why the shouting, crazyman Michael? You’re wearing a microphone). Two bouncers were at the edges of the cordoned-off area trying to keep us as far away as possible. Despite sounding like the opposite of offering customers what they want, this schizo approach seemed to work, and by 9:32 another batch of collars was called up as the previous bunch had sold out. For us, bracelet-less civilians, there was little to do but wait until 2 pm, when all the chosen ones had already munched their way through the collection like mice through Edam and we were left with the red wax.

As you can see from the picture, at 2:30 pm the queue outside the Oxford Street shop was still remarkable, despite the poor selection left by hurricane People. I managed to take a few pictures of the whole process but can tell you this is probably the last H&M designer collaboration I am planning to attend.

Sadly, the quality of the pictures is not up to scratch as I also forgot that picnik.com was going to be shut in April. Has anyone got another similar, free website to suggest, please?

Street Style — London Westend

Vintage YSL blazer; b Store t-shirt; Paul Smith shirt; Jil Sander trousers; Marc by Marc Jacobs socks, Clarks brogues.

Copenhagen Erfurt scarf; River Island skirt; clogs and jacket from Japan; Philippe Roucou bag.

Topshop scarf; Bruuns Bazaar green dress; Joop purple cardigan; vintage lilac dress; Topshop brogues; Jil Sander for Uniqlo coat.

My Very First Thanksgiving

Being an Italian living in London, I never really had a chance or official reason to celebrate Thanksgiving. I never quite knew what it involved, exactly. This year, however, thanks to my change of jobs in May, I had the luck to meet a new friend, Sara, who is from Ohio and super keen on anything Thanksgiving-related. I had no more excuses! So on Saturday 26 November I went to her house in the morning and we cooked all day long to put together an American feast for six.  We scoured through the internet to find the best Thanksgiving recipes and I think we definitely found some brilliant ones. All the pictures were taken by Sara.

Here is the menu we had on the day, click on the dish name to find the recipe:

I absolutely loved Thanksgiving and really hope we will repeat it next year.