If you don’t already know her, I’d like to introduce you to Anna Mason, a new London-based womenswear designer, who makes the kind of classic, feminine clothes I’d love to wear every single day. Her collection of romantic 70s silhouettes in thick cottons adorned in pretty florals are the opposite of fuddy-duddy or overtly sweet. (It might be just me, but I reckon there’s something slightly subversive about wearing head-to-toe ruffles and flouncy frills. Cheeky.)
I first fell in love with Mason’s collection when a friend wore one of her flattering yet slightly OTT dresses to a party two years ago. And, when I heard Anna was fulfilling orders by hand, making every piece from her kitchen table, the six-week turnaround made me want to order that dress even more. In an age of fast-fashion, buying a piece of Anna Mason feels like investing in a future heirloom – a classic, timeless heirloom I bet you’ll wear forever. As a busy working mum looking after her sick child, Anna began making dresses for herself that soon other women would want to buy and, boom, her kitchen-table couture empire was born. Don’t panic, spring/summer 18 is now TOTALLY shoppable from her site (er, phew!), but before you go flinging things in your virtual basket, pause, take a breath and meet Anna.
I really am the original cliché
You’ve heard the same story a thousand times. I was obsessed with clothes as a child. I remember events by the clothes I wore or the clothes my mum was wearing or if there was someone there who was well dressed. Aged four, I remember being transfixed by some gold buttons on a crocheted coat. At six, I told my father I wanted to be an artist or a fashion designer.
My mum was my first fashion influence
My mum was what I call classically 70s – she wore Jaeger, which was in its heyday back then. She had a really great navy velvet trouser suit, which she wore with silk jersey shirts or a polo neck. When she went out, she transformed into my ultimate romantic heroine in a cream satin layered pleated dress, which we called the butterfly dress. She owned a salmon-pink wool crepe dress with matching turban and wore it at my new school’s parents’ evening, with knee-high tan boots, and caused a sensation. I love the power of clothes – how they make you look and feel. Style-wise as a child, I wanted to be the girls from Abba and Debbie Harry of Blondie.
My grandmothers and great-grandmothers could all sew, knit or crochet
My English grandmother (on my father’s side) was a seamstress and from her I realised that one could actually make these fashion fantasies. She taught me my first steps in sewing. Aged nine, I started collecting Vogue, instead of pocket money.
At school, I really wasn’t any good at anything other than art
I went to Edinburgh College of Art to do my BA degree in fashion and then on to the Royal College of Art for my MA. There, I won the first Karl Lagerfeld competition he set and he sponsored me through my final year. I worked for him for a while – it was a thrill meeting all the supermodels. I went on to work for the Max Mara group, Valentino and Amanda Wakeley.
When I had my first child, Leo, he was unwell for the first two years
I couldn’t work full-time as I was so exhausted, so I freelanced for a couple of days a week and set up my own personal styling and shopping business. This gave me insight into how other women feel about their clothes, their bodies and their requirements from their clothes.
I was a bit frustrated creatively, so made myself some dresses
Whenever I wore these dresses, I was asked where they were from, so I made versions for people. I’d always really wanted to do my own label and this galvanised me into action. I saved a bit of money from my freelancing and styling, and made my first full collection for autumn/winter 2013. The money ended there, so I held a party in my home, roped in all my friends to model and invited everyone I could think of.
We made the orders in my kitchen
It soon took over my sitting room and we have continued to grow from there. We have just moved into premises and I can’t tell you how lovely it is not to work from home any more!
I’m inspired by the past – consistently the 70s, but other eras, too
When I think of the Anna Mason woman, I imagine Catherine Deneuve in the 70s – she is my absolute style icon.
On my spring/summer moodboard, you’ll find…
Pictures of Catherine Deneuve, Jacqueline Bisset, Brigitte Bardot, Charlotte Rampling, Jane Birkin – all of them taken in the 60s and 70s, gallivanting around Europe on holiday.
My special-occasion go-to look this season is…
From our ready-to-wear collection, the black cotton sateen rufflette dress. From our made-to-order collection, it’s the Phoebe dress in Iris jacquard. I hope I get invited to something, so I can wear this soon!
The most important thing to remember when getting ready for a big event is…
Go all out! There are so few occasions in life to dress up for, so make the most of it.