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.
This year has seen a rebirth of the Femme Fatale and a sudden rise in the 1940s’ trend. Vamping it up and adding va-va-voom are de rigueur to stand out in the approaching winter months.
(Picture source: www.vogue.co.uk)
Midi skirts, pretty pussy-bow blouses, cinched-in waists, tailored jackets, hyper-feminine tea dresses, full red lips and flirty hats all appear in the must-have list if you want to follow this lady-like trend.
(Picture source: http://www.marieclaire.com)
Of course this trend spans over 10 years of fashion history, and, as such, it has different influences, particularly originated from the circumstances due to World War II. At the beginning of the decade, with most countries being crippled by the poverty dictated by the international conflict, the hems went up to use less fabric and the shapes became more relaxed as women needed looser, more comfortable clothing in order to move and work. But by the end of the decade, women were tired of the figurative and practical cuts caused by warfare, and in 1947 Christian Dior introduced his New Look Collection (term coined by the American fashion-magazine editor Carmel Snow), which featured extra full skirts, tiny wasp waists and sloping shoulders, in contrast to the squared, military shoulders that were in use at the beginning of the decade. The skirt became longer in contrast to the early ‘40s (twelve inches or less from the ground), sustained by a taffeta petticoat.
(Picture source: http://www.vintageconnection.net/NewLook.htm)
Current designers have put together both sides of the ‘40s and adopted the full skirt as long as the slim-fit one. Built-in support is key to this style, a feature that is still present two decades later, as showcased in Mad Men. This winter, colours are going back to the Forties too, seeing deep burgundy, bottle green, mustard and rich browns on the main palette. At the same time, also other, more daring shades are introduced, such as shocking pink, bright red and lilac, to modernise this vintage look.
(Picture source: http://www.marieclaire.com)
An endless list of designers, including Frida Giannini at Gucci, Miuccia Prada, Jean Paul Gaultier and Donna Karan have dipped into Forties glamour, adding furs, pearls, gloves and shrugs as final touches and, of course, including both styles of midi skirts. This trend is wonderful for complimenting womanly figures and creating curves, and is very flattering on pretty much all shapes and forms. Wear it with chunky, platform Mary Janes, leather inserts in skirts and blouses and long hair falling on your shoulders to keep it fresh and updated.
(Picture source: http://www.myfashionlife.com)