The Vendeur Profile: Anna Mason London
Image: Anna Mason by Jonathan Glynn-Smith
Anna Mason is the best kept secret in London. Her designs have a timeless quality that makes them instantly recognisable, which is why her clients go back again and again. We spoke to Anna about reimagining the classics and why her clients can’t stop going back.
Our meeting with Anna Mason takes place on an uncharacteristically cold December day. Her studio, based in South London is small but cosy and spread over two floors. The 1st floor is the showroom and office, while her design team work from the second floor. Her team are warm and welcoming, just like Anna. Just like Anna too, many are wearing gorgeous pieces from Anna Mason London. After a quick tour, we settle on the studio’s sofa, clutching mugs of hot tea. I’m here to discuss Anna’s namesake label Anna Mason London and it’s stunning growth from a small cottage industry to this season being stocked at Net-a-Porter. Set up in 2013 from her own living room, it’s been a roller coaster journey.
Anna’s label has been on our radar for some time now. After being introduced by a colleague a few years ago, Anna has since become a familiar face on the London Fashion scene. Setting up her own label was a long time coming she tells us. Having previously worked as a designer in Europe for Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino and Max Mara, she then returned to London to work for Amanda Wakeley.
Her background in designing then led her to start her own styling business. However there was one problem. ‘I really missed designing. So whilst I was styling clients, I carried on making things,’ she explains. ‘I was frequently stopped by people who loved what I was wearing, so I subsequently made the same pieces for these women too.’ The realisation that she was onto a good thing was something she couldn’t shake. So, using some money set aside from her styling consultancy, she designed her first collection. ‘I invited people to parties at my house to look at it. I invited everyone I could think of and that’s how I started selling.’
‘I try to subvert the classics in my own small way.’ – Anna Mason
Fast forward to 2019 and Anna now runs a modest team from her South London Studio. However her techniques haven’t differed. The pieces are still by and large, made to order in her studio. Customers can order online or in person from the showroom. Their measurements are taken, then fabric is ordered specifically for them. It takes around 4 weeks to get the finished item to the customer. This can sometimes include 1-3 fittings depending on the complexity of the outfit. In an age of fast fashion, It’s a disruptive way to make clothes. However its continues to work well for Anna Mason, even as they grow as a company. In Anna’s opinion, she wouldn’t have it any other way. ‘It’s a really nice thing for people to be able to come in and have something made just for them. I like to deal with people directly.’
As the conversation evolves, she becomes more animated. It’s clear that her’s is a business with real intention, and a desire to make a positive impact. However, all of this is a by product of her love for classicism. ‘The style of the clothing is very classic. It’s my sort of classic, not classic in the traditional sense of the word I guess.’ Her pieces are definitely timeless, but you won’t find black tailored trousers in Anna’s collections. She takes inspiration from fashion history, namely the 70s, and from memories of well loved clothes. This is then remixed in her favourite fabrics; cord, moleskin and Liberty print fabrics, all are staples of the brand. ‘I love the fact that they feel so British. I am British and want to promote British brands where I can.’ In her modest words, ‘I try to subvert the classics in my own small way.’ The result is pieces that are wearable, memorable and most importantly timeless.
‘If someone buys a dress from me this season, they’ll probably wear it for 5 years. When they come back, what tends to happen is that they want the same dress but in a different fabric because they love it so much.’
Working with the same British fabric suppliers since she began, her collections are more sustainable this way. The same fabrics appear time and again throughout the collections, in various colours and in different guises. However this is done to ensure that every collection works well with the ones that have gone before it. Think of it as the best capsule wardrobe you’ve ever owned. Anna makes sure that every piece she designs will work with what you already have. ‘Every season I think to myself, how do we make this item have the most longevity?’
‘Women walk out with a piece that really fits well. If things fit, it makes a huge difference to how things look on you.’ – Anna Mason
It’s an ethos that not many brands adopt, but it’s important to Anna that the pieces you buy from her are made to last. ‘Some of the dresses we sell now were in the very first collections and they still sell.’
Having worked as a stylist, and as a woman designing for other women, longevity is also found in the fit of her pieces. ‘Women walk out with a piece that really fits well. If things fit, it makes a huge difference to how things look on you.’ She agrees that not many people understand what styles and silhouettes suit them. Her job is to show her clients how a waistline or an adjusted shoulder can completely change the look of an item of clothing. Thereby transforming a customers posture and confidence. This also has the added benefit of lengthening the lifecycle of the piece. If it fits well, you’re more likely to wear it for longer. It’s the ultimate anti fast fashion ideal.
This isn’t the only area of her business that addresses sustainability. By making each item to order, the studio doesn’t store any stock. ‘Part of the reason that we started with made to order was because I didn’t want loads of stock knocking around that I couldn’t sell.’ The fabric for each piece is ordered as and when needed, so don’t expect to find rolls of unused fabric laying around either. This is an attitude born from building a small business from her living room. ‘I don’t like waste’, she tells us. It also makes your piece extra special, it’s the only one. As Anna Mason continues it’s steady ascension, Anna remains mindful of the future.
They will be stocked again at Net-a-Porter for Spring Summer after their cord dungarees proved a sell out success for Autumn. ‘We’re definitely going places and it’s very exciting. We’ve done it in our own way.’ Anna believes that it’s this individual approach that has ensured they don’t become another flash in the pan. Her honesty as a designer, and refusal to adhere to trends have garnered her customers for life. ‘As I develop the brand I realise more and more that there’s a look that I can’t vere away from,’ she muses. We think it’s the secret to her success. And we can’t wait to see what 2019 holds for the brand.
Timeless Elegance by Anna Mason
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