Last week, we visited fashion designer Anna Mason’s atelier, our neighbour on Motcomb Street, in Belgravia. In conversation with anatome, Anna told us how she started her business in her kitchen ten years ago and shared some stories about her journey to success. She also revealed her anatome favourite essential oil.
Tell us your story - from where you grew up to your most exciting phase in your life?
I come from Bath, in Somerset, Southwest of England.
My father was English, and my mother is Swedish. I was always obsessed with clothes and fashion as a child. When I was just 9 years old, I started collecting Vogue magazine and asked that my pocket money be spent on that.
Then I studied fashion at art college and did my degree and MA in Fashion at The Royal College Of Art. I won a competition that Karl Lagerfeld had set, and I went to work for him.
After that, I worked for Max Mara and Valentino in Italy and then I came back to London and worked for Amanda Wakeley. Soon after that, I had my children. When they were little, I juggled working as a freelance fashion designer and a personal styling and shopping business.
I started my brand about 10 years ago in my kitchen, as a cottage industry, because I really missed the creative process. During my time as a personal stylist, I had started making the odd dress, blouse etc, and whenever I wore them, I got stopped and asked where I got them from. I made and sold items to some of these people. Deep down I had always wanted my own business and it just seemed like the next step. I felt if I did not do it then that I never would! So, I used a bit of money I had set aside from my freelance work and made my first collection in winter 2012.
I held a fashion party in my house and invited every female friend I had and asked them to bring their friends. Since then, the business has grown organically by word of mouth.
In 2018 the summer collection was promoted on Moda Operandi and we got noticed by Alison Loehnis of Net a porter, who then bought the winter 2018 collection.
That event really changed the pathway of my business. We are constantly growing and recently opened our first shop, showroom, atelier, HQ, and design studio all in one building. It is really exciting, like having a Parisian fashion house or Maison.
What is your London? What is it about?
London is so huge. I like different parts at different times of the year. Portobello and Notting Hill is always lovely in the summer.
I live in Wandsworth, which is filled of green spaces that I really like. I also like Bishops Park in Fulham by the river and Chelsea is a great place to walk around, shop, explore, and eat. I rather love Claridge’s, but I’ve never stayed there.
I would love a London staycation, there are many great hotels in London - The Berkeley, The Lanesborough, and Blakes Hotel, all near to my showroom and atelier. Lastly, Richmond Park for a bit of country vibes close to the city.
What is your morning routine?
I take two capsule of bio probiotics with a glass of water. Put radio 4 on. both are on my bedside table. I get up, make green match tea and wake up my daughter with a coffee.
I have a shower, gym kit on, make my daughter breakfast, take her to station and I go to the gym which is next to the station. I do whatever class is on around 7 am. I go home, have a quick shower, and get ready for work. Breakfast, emails, messages, check list, check laundry situation, put a wash on and go to work.
Coffee or tea when you wake up?
Green matcha first thing in the morning. I did a couple of total detox in lockdown and that was the substitute for my previous earl grey with oat milk. I’m still really into it. I have one cup of coffee a day when I’m into coffee and then I lose interest for a while. I’m currently in a coffee phase. I’m loving the buzz, but there are times when I don’t!
Just black coffee or in the summer as a treat I love iced coffees with syrup instead of an ice cream.
What do you do to motivate/ switch up your energy throughout the day?
Stand up from my desk. Go into the workroom, chat to my seamstresses, go downstairs to see how sales are going in the shop. I would have a cup of ginger and lemon tea, or a glass of water.
I used to drink a lot and stay hydrated, but I don’t seem to drink enough these days so I’m trying harder.
With a demanding work life, how do you keep your focus?
Try to get my exercise done first thing.
When I’m working on design, I actually need total focus, so I’ve recently invested in some headphones. I write a lot of notes in my phone, as reminders as and when I think of things. I sniff some of your oils too. I have them by my computer. I dab a bit on my hands, rub them together and inhale. I like balance and stability.
What is a relaxing evening like for you?
Probably lying on the sofa binge watching something.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Father John Misty. He has such a great voice and brilliant turn of phrase, excellent lyrics. I love a story in a song. Recently went to gig with my husband.
Where in your home have you created your haven?
I like the sofa in my kitchen when the house is quiet. It is lovely place to sit or lie.
Sleeping is one of our clients’ main goals. How do you sleep better?
I take magnesium at night, and I wear a silk black out eye patch and I have a silk pillowcase on my orthopaedic pillow. I’m very particular about my pillow! I can’t sleep in pyjama bottoms unless it’s freezing but I like my shoulders to be covered so I wear white cotton nighties, I look like a ghost.
Sometimes, I wear socks because my feet get cold. Occasionally, I have a bath before bed!
I like your recovery and sleep oil which I keep beside my bed, and I roll some of that on my temples and wrists to encourage sleep.
What is your self-care routine?
I’m following the Obagi skincare routine now which consists of a lot of steps.
Wash, tone, vitamin C, depending on time of day, two other serums, moisturiser, and sunscreen.
Then I put some make up on.
I regularly dry body brush. I love it. It’s so invigorating. I always turn the shower to cold at the end of my showers.
What are your 5 top tips for living well?
- Eat well
- Keep hydrate
- Stay curious
- Stay active
What is your go-to meal?
For simplicity, ease, and flavour, I would say avocado on toasted rye bread with chilli flakes, salt, butter, and an egg. I Just think you can eat that any time of the day and it works.
Who in life has inspired you the most? How?
Not really my life, but my life in fashion.
I’m always inspired by Yves Saint Laurent. I can go to a vintage shop and blindly pick out things I want to look at and they are often YSL. I’m also often inspired by the way people reminisce about clothes they’ve had.
I quite often try to recreate things from their description of what I imagine they might look like.
Where do you go to find space, or to be with yourself when you’re not at work?
It depends. I sometimes go on long walks, or I go to the V&A Museum, or I go window shopping. I like shopping alone. I like to meander and let my thoughts meander too.
What is the mantra or philosophy to face life’s challenges?
Just keep going.
Which is the place that most inspired your collections?
I’ve been inspired by French Provençal fabrics in the past. I’m not really into cultural appropriation in my collections. I like to be in places and think what people could wear in them.
And is there a place that you travelled to that you like the most?
Most of my travel experience has been in Europe and I’d love to revisit many of them. I love Italy – Florence, Venice, Rome, Bologna, Capri, desperate to do a tour of the Amalfi coast.
I love skiing in the winter too. I don’t mind where.
I also love Greece. I went last summer for the first time to Andros for many years and fell right back in love with it. I’d love to do an extended period of island hopping.
I also have loved travelling in Spain. Barcelona is a wonderful place and San Sebastián is too.
I love parts of France too; I have family and friends in and around the Toulouse region. I love going to French brocante browsing and shopping.There are many places further afield that I’d like to travel but I’d be here all day if I listed them!
I’ve also had wonderful visits to India, Morocco, Bali, Zanzibar South Africa California
Charleston and Beaufort in South Carolina - I love the hanging moss. I’d love to go back to all of them and see and do more.
Where do you get your inspiration for your collections?
Looking at fabrics, researching vintage pieces. Conceptualising the ‘look’ and the ‘woman’. I ask myself things like; Is it a bit 70’s with a bit of 80’s or whatever this season? Is there something else to add or takeaway? What do I think is coming next? What feels current? What would I want? What colour am I ‘feeling’? What is the woman doing, where is she going, how does she feel etc.? What details do I want to fuse into what group?
There is a lot to consider, and there is a real energy to this process, as it requires quite a lot of dreaming. And as we all know dreaming is fun.
How would you describe Anna Mason’s collection?
Feminine wearable and timeless.
Classic yet modern with a romantic nod to the past. They have a youthful attitude that is relevant to the lifestyles of women today. I hope my clothes offer authentic day to day dressing solutions for the here-and-now that become 'go to' wardrobe favourites.
Could you tell us more about the brand? How and when was created? And your last collection?
Sustainability has always been a core value for me. Where possible I use British Fabrics and the clothes are the very opposite of disposable fashion; beautifully made, I design collections to be worn again and again. To make clothes that women cherish, and outfits that work for their
individual shape, fill the gaps in their wardrobe and are suitable for everyday life as well as special occasions.
My collections are available on a made to order basis, and some pieces are available as limited-edition stock items. My collection is also stocked at Net a Porter, SAKS USA and other select retailers.
We are currently selling spring/summer 22 and I drew inspiration from Claude Monet’s 1900 painting, “Le Jardin de l’artiste a Giverny’ (‘The Artist’s Garden at Giverny’). The collection is based on the concept of ‘The Garden of Freedom’. Freedom, the thing we most longed for throughout the pandemic; to enjoy the free space, natural beauty and renewal of a summer garden.
The last collection I completed is aw22-23 and I’m busy working on resort 22 and pre-spring 23 right now and then into spring summer 23.