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.

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.

Two Manuelas Are Better than One

I recently discovered the designer Manuela Dack. I thought “with such a name, she can only be a winner”. Well, I was right (I don’t know if it’s down to the name, though).

Manuela Dack S/S '12

Manuela graduated from Middlesex University in 2010 and since then she has been a very prolific designer. Her first collection, Autumn/Winter ’11, was discovered at the London Concept store Machine-A and stocked at The Shop at Bluebird on King’s Road. Since then, Manuela received plenty of attention from the press and media, including Elle Japan, Grazia Magazine, Style.it, SHOWStudio, Vogue Italia, Style Bubble, W Magazine and recently The Independent and Fashion Editor at Large (Grazia’s fashion editor Melanie Rickey’s blog). And it’s easy to see why. This hot new talent’s signature elements are silk and leather layering, embellishment and texture. Her elegant style is clean despite including several intricate craft detailing, such as dreamlike hand-dyeing, embroidery and beaded fringing.

Manuela Dack S/S '12

Her Spring/Summer ’12 collection is astounding: cascading silk layers ripple ethereally like in her second film collaboration, a short video which was directed by artist Max Langlands and that focuses on the sculptural and shape aspects of clothing. British-made, delicate lace and digitally printed leather (cowhide is printed to look like stingray to keep things ethical) are juxtaposed in a natural and breezy colour palette to create a minimalistic and sophisticated collection.

The inspiration for this collection came from the designer’s childhood on the Caribbean Island of Grand Cayman. The sea, colours and textures of the Caribbean, along with the island’s traditional craft techniques, play a very strong role in influencing this collection. And the perfectionist obsession of the attention to detail, which sees beading and hand-dyeing all done in-house, the label’s production kept within the UK and the inclusion of British craft work, can only guarantee wonderfully high-quality product standards, which puts this young newcomer to the same level of high-end designers.

Manuela Dack S/S '12

Her Autumn/Winter ’12 sees the return of her inspiring outerwear, which features a powerful feminine silhouette with a focus on detail. This latest collection was inspired by a collection of carved and inlaid wooden boxes owned by the designer, which transpired in the design through cut-away leather and with an angular uniform silhouette in contrast to spring/summer’s relaxed vibe.

Manuela Dack A/W '12

Manuela won London and Paris Fashion Week Sponsorship for Autumn/ Winter 2012 from Vauxhall Fashion Scout and the Center of Fashion Enterprise and her new pieces from the S/S ’12 collection are being stocked by The Shop at Bluebird, where they seemed only too happy to take her design on board for a second time.

Manuela Dack A/W '12

Manuela Dack A/W '12

Ideal Love a New Purchase

End of the month = payday = shopping!

I’ve been on the lookout for something to buy for a while now (who am I lying to? I already had plenty of options in mind). It must be the spring-like, sun-lit, mild and breezy weather London is giving us of late, or all of these bright and rich colours invading every shop and clothes website. Whatever it is, we are all dying to inject some colour and new shapes into our wardrobes, so I thought I’d take a look at what’s cool and write a little list to give some inspiration, in case any of you was feeling stuck for ideas.

First of all: think mint. It is absolutely everywhere and my friend Sara is delighted as it’s her favourite colour. Just thinking of the high street, I saw this pale green shade in Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Zara, Accessorize+Monsoon and Pull&Bear, just to name a few.

Topshop bow sleeve mint blouse – £36

I thought the following top was probably the easiest option to wear this colour, so you could team it with pretty much anything under the sun.

I chose this mini skirt below because it encompasses two different trends which are huge at the moment and will remain with us through the spring and summer: the Aztec print and the pastel colours (and it goes with the top!)

Zara embroidered mini skirt – £29.99

I love Zara too much. And this skirt is edgy, short, cool and cute. It’s all you need, can’t beat it.

The Aztec print is also featured on this snuggly little jumper. It’s the first time I see neon colours toned down a little to make them look paler, and thought it was different and cool. I need it to wear it over my denim shirt, paired with shorts.

River Island fluorescent print jumper – £38

…And that’s when I got the email from Moda Operandi with a preview of the new Marc by Marc Jacobs FW 2012, Marc by Marc Jacobs FW Accessories 2012 and Jason Wu Accessories. So I absolutely had to share.

This sleeveless, round neck velvet cocktail dress has a quirky geometric waistline and an eyelet embroidered skirt, with a silk lining. The colour looks nice and rich and the velvet does not look too thick, preventing the frumpy look that this fabric can give at times. I can see this piece working with contrasting accessories. The red socks really complemented the look and were matching the red lips on the catwalk.

Marc by Marc Jacobs Valentina Velvet Dress – US$628. Picture source: modaoperandi.com

Très chic! I love this tri-tone satchel. It features a snake inspired laser cut suede panel on the front flap and the caramel, mauve and shocking pink work perfectly together.

Marc by Marc Jacobs Flipping Out Satchel – US$528. Picture source: modaoperandi.com

And last but not least…These burgundy velvet loafers feature varnish red details and a low stacked heel, very comfy and easy to wear with ankle-grazer trousers, slim-fit midi skirts, shorts and mini skirts.

Jason Wu little emperor loafers – US$630. Picture source: modaoperandi.com

I now feel super impatient about getting a hold on those FW collections – skip the summer, I want a new MbMJ bag!

A Quick Look into the Italian Fashion Scene

I’ve recently got back from Genoa, Italy, where I went to visit my family. That little trip inspired me in putting together a super brief list of my very favourite designers who are either up-and-coming or established but still fairly obscure to the British audience.

PENNYBLACK is produced and distributed by Manifatture del Nord, one of the companies which belong to the Max Mara Fashion Group. Born in 1978, PENNYBLACK is characterised by a sophisticated yet easy-to-wear style. They utilise high-quality materials and pay great attention to detail, and their international team of innovative designers constantly create fresh looks which quickly become modern classics.

PENNYBLACK

PENNYBLACK

Claudia Tacchella is a young designer who lives and works in Milan and currently collaborates with Flashstone, another name to make note of. Her latest standalone collection was called Chromophobia, and it featured monochrome contrasts, elegant cuts in faux leather, black sheer micronet and crisp white silk. Different textures and contrasting fabrics are juxtaposed to highlight curves and blazers feature strong, structured shoulders to balance hyper-feminine hips wrapped in tight skirts and leggings. Claudia explains that inspiration for this collection was drawn from the apartheid and the contrasting roles of the white and black races. The designer said the aim of this collection was to recall through the garments the feeling of the rigidity of the segregation and, at the same time, the freedom that ensued.

One of Claudia Tacchella's designs.

Giuro Che Domani Smetto (GCDS), literally ‘I swear I’ll give it up tomorrow’, was developed from an idea by Veronica Massa, Walter D’Aprile e Vincenzo Paccone. GCDS is a journey through one-night parties which are accompanied by a clothing line. Every party tells the story of each one of us, who after excess drinking and ‘good times out’ reflect on the possibility of quitting the party lifestyle. These parties take place in Naples one Saturday per month. Tailored videos are created for each party, which encourage the people attending to take part in the next event. The clothing line that accompanies the events is GCDS’s second means of communication. Through the T-shirts, which are becoming increasingly fashionable, they communicate the main message of each event. They are ironic and mock many of the classic situations that take place during nightlife and partying. Next to the simple black or white Tees features also a more complex, edgy line: Giuro Che Domani Smetto Wardrobe, which is like a little trunk filled with unisex clothing through which men and women alike can swap clothes.

GCDS

Max & Co. is by far and away my favourite, favourite Italian brand, and every time I go to Italy I spend a small fortune in their shop in central Genoa.  Max & Co. also belongs to the Max Mara Fashion Group and was born in 1986. The lines are clean and fuss-free but at the same time edgy and stylish. The designs are classic and modern at the same time and extremely easy to wear. These guys know how to do justice to the Italian sartorial tradition with a very high attention to detail and only the best materials. The quality is outstanding and the designs are always on trend.

Max & Co.

Max & Co.

These are my top four favourite Italian designers/labels. Which are yours? Do you have any new names to suggest?