Anna Mason, creator of some of the most beautiful dresses in the world, whose colourful, bold and romantic styles are worn and adored by England’s high society and high powered working women, talks to us about her iconic brand.
STIL: Anna, you have loved fashion since childhood. What inspired this passion from such a young age?
AM: Really I was obsessed right from being very small. When I was 3, I had a knitted coat that had brass round buttons and I loved putting it on. Also my mother - I remember the transformative quality of clothes - when she went out I honestly remember thinking she looked like a princess. She had some gorgeous clothes. My grandmother was a seamstress – actually all her siblings were milliners, seamstresses and tailors. When I realised you could actually make what you had thought up I was hooked. I used to ask to sew with her when I went to see her. She taught me how to sew.
STIL: You won a scholarship to work for Karl Lagerfeld in Paris, followed by Max Mara in Italy and then Valentino. Returning to the UK you then worked for British designer Amanda Wakeley. What influences, if any, did you take from these designers?
AM: From Karl and Valentino - I loved the detail. Brilliant techniques for making frills or decorations, shoulder pads etc.
Then at Maxmara - the obsession with the ease of the fit. They have something they call the ‘bus test’- its checking that you can lift your arm and hold on to the handle in the bus with ease in a garment!
At Amanda we were obsessed with designing as women for women.
STIL: In 2012 you launched your own label ‘Anna Mason’ and for a while you were the best kept secret of some of England’s most stylish women, offering a bespoke service as well as ‘ready to wear’.
Your ready to wear dresses have the enviable reputation for ‘always having the perfect fit’; Why do you feel the bespoke service is necessary?
AM: The bespoke is how I started and so it means that clients can order a different colour and have something unique.
STIL: I first came across your label in Marrakesh. The most stylish and chic woman I know, India Jane Birley, was wearing the Bardot Plain Dress in apple-green with what I now know to be your signature tie waist. What inspired this dress?
AM: That dress is actually a version of one of my first dresses. Versions of it are still in the collection. It was inspired by a peasant blouse. I wanted something really easy to wear with a sleeve. I love to create clothes with volume and drama but at the same time I like simplicity.
STIL: From where do you get the inspiration for a new collection?
AM: Often other eras, more often than not the 70s. But also from sensing what I want to wear now or how I want to feel. Memories of dresses my mother wore or even hearing stories of dresses that people have loved.
STIL: Your clothing very cleverly suits all ages, it has clean lines and is quite classical and yet there is a cool and slightly edgy aesthetic to them. How do you do this?
AM: I think of what I want and then I like to add some drama to create an interesting silhouette.
STIL: Now that ‘Anna Mason’ has launched on Net-a-Porter, will you continue to offer your bespoke service? - Or do you envisage that online sales will become the future of the brand?
AM: I will always do the bespoke. And I do not see online as the sole future of my brand. I see ‘the experience’ as the future of my brand.
STIL: Which brands other than your own would we find in your wardrobe?
AM: I’m really strict with myself - I only buy things that we don’t make. So shoes, knitwear, handbags and jeans. I love vintage particularly YSL. I love Malone Souliers shoes, Isabel Marant jeans and boots, Chloe and Chanel handbags, Celine knitwear.
STIL: You are worn by some of the world’s most beautiful women. Who would you most like to dress?
AM: Honestly I like dressing all women - my friends!! But I’d also love to dress Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Sienna Miller, Claudia Schifffer, Cate Blanchett, Angelia Jolie, Amal Clooney, Giovanna Battiglia, the list goes on and on.
STIL: What do you think is the one essential item every woman should have in her wardrobe?
AM: Comfortable with a bit of a heel boots.
STIL: What are you reading? And do you have an all time favourite book?
AM: I’ve just finished the Blind Assassin by Margaret Attwood. I am terrible when it comes to reading - I really only get the chance when I’m on holiday when I can binge. No.
STIL: If you could spend five minutes with a historical character, who would it be?
AM: Marilyn Monroe.
STIL: Who do you most admire?
AM: In fashion I really admire Isabel Marant. And Ralph Lauren and Jeane Lanvin.
STIL: Do you have a favourite place to holiday?
AM: I really don’t - I like new places.
STIL: Heels or flats?
AM: Heels…. Because flats are always too flat for me so I never wear them….unless they are trainers.
STIL: Is there a secret to having great style?
STIL: A style tip for STIL customers?
AM: Something trashy sometimes to perk it up. More is more! But not too sexy ( by that I mean show a little bit of something but not a lot of everything .)
Thank you, Anna Mason.
Timeless yet contemporary, feminine yet simple and easy to wear, an Anna Mason dress is an investment you will cherish for many years to come. In my opinion an Anna Mason dress should come with a warning! I have heard that her clothing attracts the attention of total strangers and of those who cannot resist asking where it comes from! And Anna is the perfect advocate for her designs.