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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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.

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.

Savoury Fruit Salad

Last Saturday was very warm and sunny here in London. There was no way I was going to  have a proper lunch, so thought I’d make a salad. Put together a few ingredients and then realised that yep, they were all fruit, rather than vegetables: orange, avocado and tomato. It’s a fruit salad!

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I dressed it very simply with a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, cider vinegar, Maldon salt and white pepper.

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It’s summer!

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!