Welcome to Mary Benson World
Why is now the time for slow fashion?
Because it’s time to rethink the rapid pace of season-by-season collections, which are the fashion industry standard. And that’s precisely what the Yorkshire-born designer Mary Benson is doing. A Westminster University fashion graduate, and a Fashion East alumnus, Benson quit the world of London Fashion Week after just two seasons in 2015. Her last “traditional” collection was a surrealist take on the 1990s nostalgia with hand-drawn prints – definitely one of the highlights of autumn/winter 2016. “I was finding it really difficult to put on a show and do everything without any funding. So, I just decided to get a pub job even though I knew it was quitting early in a sense, ” Benson remembers. And now, after two years of sketching, pulling pints and a few collaborations (including designing accessories for ASOS and a Christmas tree for the Hackney Council), she is back with a fresh mind and a new take.
“During my two years out, I had a look at what I was and wasn't good at. I decided that I was best on the print side of things and when creating simple silhouettes,” Benson tells us. And that’s exactly what her comeback looks like: universal and unisex tracksuit silhouettes covered in iridescent prints. They reference everything from Egypt to Japan, and the collection is unified by its vibrancy – a definite Mary Benson signature. And all this exciting energy isn’t just rooted in her new vision of the fashion industry. “I decided I was going to start designing again in January, and then within a month I found out that I was pregnant,” she says. “I’ve now got a lot of other things to think about so I’ve kept the range really simple and I’ve built [the brand] around how I want to work.”
And she’s not alone in this season-less take on the industry. A number of smaller designers (including Edward Meadham’s brand Blue Roses) are breaking the “buyers as the gatekeepers” rule and taking their work directly from the sewing machine into the hands of their fans. Benson’s collection of four made-to-order, vinyl-printed tracksuits and screen-printed t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies, will be exclusively available through her website MaryBensonWorld.com. “These big design houses are releasing so many pieces in each collection, that smaller brands just end up getting lost. They don’t even get any airtime. It would be better if people could actually see the garments and understand them, and if they don’t like them – they can wait for the next collection,” she explains.
As idealistic as it may sound, this strategy makes sense for Benson and the world she is creating: “I want it to be a lifestyle brand, and do things like soft furnishings as well as childrenswear – I’m probably going to do tiny tracksuits. Also, for each colourway and print of the tracksuit, I’ve got four framed artworks to match.” Sign us up.
The new Mary Benson World collection launches today and is available at MaryBensonWorld.com with prices starting from £65.
Text by Dino Bonacic