The clock is ticking down…Tuesday 11 June is our big day, well, night really and we’ve not been idle..the rest of the Collection all ready for our Preview…
The Bardot. Light, loose, sassy dressing.
Laters, Kate x
Researching a visual to explain things quickly I came across the website of Everlane, who produced the following pictures..
The aim behind the pictures was to illustrate how consumers are ‘ripped off’ along the chain of events that leads to a designer purchase. But is it entirely accurate?
From make to wholesaler = 224% margin
From Wholesaler to retailer = 333% margin.
Which are big margins – but the diagram doesn’t explain them – the margins do represent a percentage of the profit but it’s only a percentage not the full whack. The margins are also required to cover other costs:
Further shipping, more transport, import duties, administration, design time, development, currency exchange, banking fees, marketing, loss leaders, pattern cutters, equipment, fittings, pattern changes, warehousing and storage, rent, utilities, IT costs, even labels, zips, threads and buttons..and probably much more.
At the second tier, for the retailer there could be a brick and mortar shop to pay for, employees and all the associated costs, advertisng, their own loss leaders etc etc…
The pictures do prove that nothing in fashion is simple.
It is possible to cut these costs. If you’re mass market and contract out to a third world country I’ve heard you can get a t-shirt made for 2p. In fact clothes have never been cheaper and are now fully accessible to all. Which has to be a good thing..But at what cost? 1,100 people died in the Bangladeshi factory disaster…is it ethical? Is it exploitation? Where does the line get drawn?
There are other alternatives abroad – better factories, better conditions where many of the ‘luxury’ fashion labels get their product made. And yes, with their financial clout and established infra-structure maybe they can make those sort of profits..but even then think how much money goes into marketing to support their brands? And think about the problems that can go wrong – the delays, the accidents, the unexpected that all has to be factored in. And all the time all that money being spent on manufacture is money draining out of the UK economy.
So where does this leave a British based start-up fashion label like us?
We can’t buy our materials in bulk so there is no reduction in cost for us there.
We can’t make our stock in bulk so there is no reduction here either.
Our ‘factory’ is an ‘atelier’ – a room of skilled – masterful – sewers based in London who make everything by hand. Not at a cost not per garment, but per hour. Look at a sewing machine, look at an expensive piece of silk and look at the finished product – the tiny stitches, the French seams. It’s not a fast job. Each hour is £25.00 plus VAT. But that is the cost of a craftsperson at the top of their profession..
We have no choice, we have to start at the designer end, the hard end – so why bother?
We still believe that there is an element of magic in fashion. We believe we can make a profit by cutting out the wholesaler and selling direct – only time will tell. And we believe that at some point consumers acknowledge they are buying more than the tangible item itself..we believe that value can take on a new meaning, that design can be desirable, treasured and trusted…our atelier is so good they do work for Victoria Beckham. We have drive, we have passion and we have a designer in Anna who has an acknowledged pedigree having worked with the greats such as Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino..she knows this industry and she was born to design.
The truth is that the Everlane illustration was too simplistic – the bottom-line is that in the retail world not all products are created equally. And some are definitely created with more love and care than others. Only sales will confirm whether that is worth the price.
Laters, Kate x
It’s been eighteen months since Anna and I first came up with our Grand Plan..it was a dark, cold December night and knocking back the wine on the steps of my utility room we were both bemoaning the creative frustration we were feeling. Mix into that a computer, a shared love of vintage and a bit more Chablis..and MasonBentley was born. Right from the start we knew that a business just based on vintage would limit us – we wanted to create – truly create. But we had to start somewhere..and we had to find out if our idea for selling the clothes via Direct Selling would work.
Roll on eighteen months..and here we are with our own embryonic range..still learning, still loving it..and discovering that the more we do, the more ideas we have..sometimes, just sometimes from little acorns big oak trees grow.
The actual concept behind this collection is very simple – we wanted flexible, cool, effortless British style.
We have shirts because we believe they are the true transseasonal item worn all year round. There’s no time limit on these babies.
We have stunning ‘dickies’ that either sit on our shirts..or on a jumper..or on a t-shirt..adaptable, aspirational and clever.
We have cotton dresses because they are the ultimate in capsule wardrobe dressing. Posh them up with a pair of sky high heels..or dress them right down with flip-flops, insouciance and a bit of attitude..these dresses don’t need to wait in a cupboard for the right occasion.
We have a kaftan and a bikini as a taster of our vision for Summer 14 because we are always thinking ahead.
But rather than me tell you, have a look at our first round of photos (with more to follow)..
It’s going to be a special night and we would love to see you there!
Laters, Kate x
Yesterday Anna and I slapped on the lippy, added a little MasonBentley number, clicked our heels and headed off to the Vogue Festival at the South Bank to hear the e-commerce oracle Natalie Massenet give a talk.
Impressions? I have never been in such a large group of people where fashion was an over-riding obsession, it created a touchable energy I wished I could bottle. In fact it would be easy to intimidated – I know I used to worry much more about failure – and maybe it’s one of the joys of growing older that you can to stand back, observe and place feelings within context from the memory bank.
It struck me – and I have to be honest here – that there was the lack of heart stopping visions of fashion that really floated my boat. Everyone was all very very – there was neon, there was sheer, there was monochrome, there were see-through clutches..but surely if it’s been labelled a ‘trend’ you are following fashion rather than creating it?
For me great fashion has always had that element of unattainability – all precision cut, impeccably crafted, rich visual rewards with cleverness and innovation, Glamour, mystique and cool sophistication, beautifully crafted visions of perfection. But I did’t see that..instead I saw the need for celebrity spread across clothes like landing beacons for transient moments of limelight and a little bit of me wanted to grow wings and fly away.
Maybe the fashion I lust after is elitist which is why it’s been sidelined to a corner? Maybe fast fashion, bright colours and basic material is the only way? We had hoped that Anna might get ‘papped’ in our Valentina dress..I still believe that quality shines. But it was disappointing when we saw that the only outfits being noticed were the most extreme…the towering platform heels, the tiny skirts, the bling…do they really represent what women want to wear? what makes them comfortable? cool? It feels very wrong when we don’t like good any more…that we don’t hold it in esteem.
The talk was great – I would give my eye-teeth to have a two-to-one with Natalie Massenet..if you want to see it for your self all her slides are available on Instagram at @nataporter_mystorysofar. A huge amount of what she said completely resonated with us and our vision for the future. We were inspired.
Then, on the way out..’Madame..Can we take your picture?’…Only USA Vogue!
As Steve Martin said…be so good they can’t ignore you…
I have more dresses from our first collection…not perfectly shot because these were taken literally on the rails at the factory…but perfectly made…
The Grace in black..just a completely different dress…simple, elegant…wonderful!
This is our no-named shirt…Lace is our reflection on now..this print represents our vision for the future and a very british essence we wanted to capture. What has delighted us (can you tell?!) is that we wanted the core of our first collection to be cross-seasonal so we could carry it forward whilst growing new ideas…the other concept we wanted to embrace is escalator dressing..the ability to wear an item dressed up out to dinner..or casually with a pair of jeans or flip-flops..the final criteria is that where humanely possible everything will have pockets..love. love. LOVE! – check out the cuffs and the shoulders..
The Valentina, tarted up…don’t you want to just touch it? stroke it? Wear it? She is gorgeous!
Laters, a delighted Kate xxx
So excited!!! – These are four of the summer dresses we have been working on over the past few weeks…Normally all the ‘developing collection’ pics are posted on our ‘latest MasonBentley page’..but I think these deserve a little more limelight..
The nostalgia of these dresses is in the magic of re-discovery…the basic patterns have all been taken from vintage dresses – and then re-worked so none of the character is lost but there is an added attitude or ease of wearability (i.e. zips in easy places) to reflect our modern day living. The pictures below show the dresses primarily in the pale taupey beige broiderie anglais which is a gorgeous colour but we also plan to do them in white and black..and there is a winter version of the Valentina in the pipeline…
The dresses were all designed with different body shapes in mind..spot the one to suit you..I hope you like!
This is the Valentina. Dress up or dress down. Perfect for an English summer wedding when you can’t rely on the sun. Or put on a pair of flip-flops and head out to the shops..This is the Billie. It’s simplicity and ease of movement is a joy – it will look good no matter how high the temperature rises… a pair of wedges, large sunnies and a straw bag and you are good to go. The belt can also be worn to the front with a large bow – Anna is just improvising without the official belt in this pic..but note the shape to the hem to show a flash of leg – the split and the curve – J’adore.
The Grace. Youthful, elegant, fresh. Dress up for dinner..or just wear on a summers day to pick up the kids from school.. feel a million dollars…the ‘dress’ has to be the ultimate capsule wardrobe. Full stop. No faffing with what goes with what – it’s on..and you’re off…
The Bergman. A hint to Anna’s Swedish heritage. A summer dress to get you noticed..wear this and you know people will comment…but it’s still a cotton summer dress..
Laters, Kate x
I think I may be moving inspirationally backwards when searching for a point of brilliance in the hunt for my spring/summer wardrobe…the siren voice of the 70s is singing my name…I feel I know want..but whether I can find it will be something else entirely…
The truth is I am in love with wide trousers – the long triangle of silhouette making everything waist-wise look minuscule then set off with a small contrasting jacket..and those big sunnies…and a casual, but quietly expensive slung bag..sigh.
I am drawn to the proper flare/bell bottoms – and this is the perfect summer picture of desire – the way her trousers are deliciously skimming-the-ground-long and completely covering her shoes – which are probably a pair of wonderful Longchamp wedges subtly adding to height and length. Who can’t love that?
The summer would be so effortless – peasant blouses and louche, artistic tops…
It’s a good job that the louche, artistic top is a bit of a MasonBentley speciality…the final samples are being made as I type and proper photos will follow at some point…but to give you a taster, here is Anna modelling some of our new designs…