Ever wandered how do British girls manage to look effortless and so achingly cool? Looking at them you immediately know two things- they know all about latest trends yet all they look strikingly individual and different from one another. They look modern yet timeless. What’s their secret? Meet Anna Mason, a London designer who is responsible for that classy, effortless brand of British cool, which is so in demand.
I was invited to Anna’s studio for a preview of her collection a couple of weeks ago when a phone call plunged me straight into what could be a set of a Tarantino movie. Yes, that’s my day job I’m talking about. So I’ve changed again from my robe coat (you saw it here) and my over the knee snakeskin boots (here) to my black suit, put away the camera and quickly emailed Anna asking if I could pop in the following day.
Next day I’m finally there. I right the bell and Anna herself opens the door. Dressed in an exquisite heather colour silk dress (I later discover it’s actually a blouse and a skirt) and grey suede sloughy boots, she is an image of class personified. I can spot effortless chic at hundred paces and Anna in her clothes is the very vision of it.
An afternoon light seeps through large windows. Anna’s studio is in a large Georgian house, house with beautiful bones, high cellings and sweeping staircase. I’m itching to get snapping and Pinterest happy but I’m here for the clothes so I make every effort to stop myself. The table is strewn with swatches of silk and wool, and drawings made in pencil, so whimsical they could be in children’s books yet so precise I have no doubt what Anna’s vision for her pieces is. Anna’s clothes are made to order- clients chose her designs in any color they wish. Her atelier is in London so there is none of the sweatshop business going on. The clothes are handmade and they arrive at your door in 4-6 weeks.
But don’t get me wrong, Annas clothes are not some super precious couture items. Yes, they are made from exquisite fabrics (my favourite is silk in every colour) but they are totally wearable, chameleon clothes by which I mean her silk blouses (sorry to be so stuck on her silks, I’m obsessed with them) can be worn with a matching skirt and a belt (like I’m wearing on the photos) so it looks like a dress, or dressed down with a pair of jeans and a jacket, a belt taking on a role of a silk scarf.
“I know who my customer is and what she likes to wear- says Anna- I also think what I want to wear. I want my clients to feel good about themselves and to be comfortable. That’s why my coats have long splits on the sides, so you an wrap them around your waist and secure with a belt- you’ll be warm but still have a slim waist. So many coats feel bulky”. Anna puts on a black and white wool coat with a black silk belt. With a beautiful figure, porcelain doll skin and super high cheekbones, she is the best model for her designs. Her evening coats have wide sleeves and 3/4 length cuffs. “When my clients wear an evening dress they don’t want to be squashed in a heavy coat, hence wide sleeves and light yet warm wool”.
I set my designs on a grey set I’ve seen a model wearing on a video Anna had made for Instagram (@annamason1). I put it on but it’s too big for me so I try a pink skirt and heather silk blouse. The blouse is a new model, long sleeves with a v neck, a similar to the one Anna is wearing herself. I usually avoid blouses because they often make me feel constricted so I prefer overseized men’s shirts. But the moment I put on Anna’s blouse, I know it’s going to be mine. It makes me look slimmer. It’s beautifully cut yet not too structured. It makes me feel and look effortlessly chic and elegant at the same time. Like an uptown girl but with added cool. Anna smiles. “Yes- she says- I want you to feel comfortable, to forget about the clothes. I don’t want you to constantly tug at your clothes and try to tuck them in place”. No wonder Clemence Posey is a fan.
Anna shows me her atelier and introduces me to her team. I spot her mood board on the wall and it’s clear who her girl is- a cool and chic Brit with a dollop of French style. Anna herself used to work Karl Lagerfeld, Maxmara and Valentino before setting up her own label, attracting a loyal customer base. When I dance around her studio in the samples, a customer pops in. She clearly feels comfortable in Anna’s atelier and goes straight for a cream jumper a broderie anglaise top. I hang around for a while longer when Anna and her client discuss size and length of the jumper, and get into animated discussion about Topshop high waisted jeans.
Soon, it’s time to leave and and I reluctantly change into my own clothes. I emerge into a sunny street but not before I’ve ordered my own set in steel grey.