Interview with designer Mary Benson
Mary Benson has worked alongside Hermione De Paula, Yan To and, most impressive of all, Mary Portas ie. my Pope. She is a young designer with a very strong design style and sense of self.
Mary is currently studying at Westminster University after finishing a foundation course at Leeds College of Art, showing how brilliant young creatives can be even when they're still studying.
After falling in love with her designs, Mary agreed to a little interview from me for you guys so here it is...
Let's start at the beginning, how did you find your time at Leeds College of Art and would you recommend it to others?
Leeds Art is a good choice. I met a lot of inspiring knowledgeable people and ended up working with a few of them on collaborations.
I was given so much help and guidance from my tutors who were always pointing me in the right direction and gave me and got me into new things that I wasn’t aware of before. The facilities were very good, especially the print department, there was everything I needed.
Who inspired you to pursue a career in fashion?
I am really inspired by my friends. Especially since I went to university I met some really fascinating, motivated people who have made me think in a completely different way and opened my mind a lot. My family has always been really proud of everything I have achieved and it makes me want to do more!
What's the most useful thing you learned while interning at places like McQueen and Richard Nicoll?
Working at McQueen was very eye opening. I learned so many new fabric manipulation techniques that I’d never tried before. I got an insight into how the company worked and how much work, time and effort goes into making a collection.
At Richard Nicoll I learned how to hand finish a garment using couture techniques, I was taught how to dye fabrics and achieve specific shades by making recipes from an array of different colour dyes. They both prepared me a lot for the future.
Do you work with a muse in mind?
One of my best friends. She dresses really well and always has an interesting sophisticated look going on. I think she has good taste.
Does your personal style ever affect your designs?
I go through lots of different fazes. I can’t make my mind up how I want to look most of the time! At the moment I am into a lot of tailoring and been sampling a lot of tailoring techniques.
Your collection is amazing, can you tell us a little about it?
I made the black structured shape dress for a Modernity Project. My main inspiration was sportswear mainly focusing on wet suits and trainers. I used waterproof fabrics as well as power mesh, which I love to work with. I love different shades of black and unusual textures. I worked from a couple of shapes that I sampled a lot in unusual waterproof materials and experimented on the mannequin.
You worked alongside Mary Portas on 'Mary Queen of Shops', what is the most valuable thing you took from this experience?
How to work within a budget and how to price my collection realistically. I had to be filmed a lot and wish I had more of an idea about how to answer questions when being interviewed; I was only 16 and didn’t have much practice!
What would an average day in the Mary Benson studio consist of?
I’ve been sampling lots of different types of collars, cuffs and pockets and have someone helping me at the moment too which is brilliant! I like to put some music on and chill out.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was younger I was convinced I was going to be an archaeologist, then went through a strange phase of wanting to work on a farm! But once I went to secondary school I started graphic design, When it came to applying for college courses I chose to do fine art at Leeds College of Art but a couple of weeks before the course started I transferred to the Fashion course instead. I was very indecisive!
Who is your style icon?
I love Patti Smith, she’s really cool. But I’m not too sure who I base my style on I change my mind all the time.
You also have your own blog, do you think it's important to keep up a strong online presence?
Yeah definitely. I try to update my blog every day, sometimes more than once if I have a lot to say!
For more info and images, visit Mary's great blog. Her website is on the way!
P.S. I'm off to Latitude Festival today so I've scheduled some posts for over the weekend, I'm super excited! Is anyone else (apart from the ones I know about...) off to Latitude? If not, you should be, it's awesome!
Don't forget to enter my Tatty Devine competition to win lots of gorgeous goodies! Click here to enter.