I discovered Marek and Mason at a private pop up event back in May, where I was fortunate enough to meet the creator behind this gorgeous fashion brand – Jane Mason. Once I started talking to Jane, I soon realised this cool chick is madly passionate about fashion. With over 18 years in the fashion industry and two successful businesses behind her, you could safely say that she knows her stuff. I am truly inspired by this wonderful women and want to introduce her to you. Jane shares experience in running a business and her tips to making it successful.
Lets get to know Jane. Jane, tell us a bit about yourself?
My boyfriend will often say I have an unhealthy obsession with clothes! Guess being in fashion all my life could be why. I run an agency called House of Mason, in the heart of London working with around 100 brands and retailers. I resource creatives and product specialists for men, ladies and kids clothing, footwear and accessories and have been doing this now for the last 18 years. It combines my passions for people, finding the right creative fit for all the companies I work with. I love it, I find it really rewarding. It’s also a wonderful feeling to think I can help people change their life and get them their dream job!
As a hobby I started designing and making dresses for fun and this has become my other business Marek and Mason. My other passions in life are interior design. I also have a huge love for Marrakech. I think it’s the inner hippy in me. There is something about the place that draws me in and brings out all my ideas and creativity.
Tell us about Marek and Mason and what gave you the idea to start?
I started selling handbags and accessories 5 years ago. I had a stall on North Cross Road East Dulwich. I did this every Saturday alongside a fulltime job. After 14 years of being in a fulltime role I left my job to set up my own business. I took a month off and went to Marrakech. During this time I started to play about with kaftans and looked at ways to make them sexy. I came up with an idea that worked and looked flattering on any size from a size 6 to a 24! Flattering shapes that are on trend have been the DNA of the brand. We manufacture in Marrakech as that’s where my idea started. I have a history of over 20 years of travelling there. I am constantly inspired by the place and that’s where the heritage of the brand comes from
Describe your typical day.
My day starts at 7am with a coffee and morning walk with our 2 dogs Dora and Albert, 2 miniature dachshunds. My partner and I do this together as it kick starts the morning and the dogs love being around us both. My day is very dependent on what’s happening that week. I can be anywhere…But typically it will be a call before I even arrive into the office from Dani who is my right hand lady across both companies. Any orders from the night before are all activated, wrapped and packaged first thing as well as inspecting any returns and exchanges. Dani has usually organized and done this before we start work at 9am. I am often in meetings, seeing clients or interviewing new talent. No day is ever the same. I try and get home by 6.30/7pm and the evening finishes how it started with a walk with Dora and Albert. Towards the end of the week, we stop for a glass of wine at our local pub. I try not to answer emails but that usually never happens till I go to bed!
Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?
I love fashion and I love anything that makes me look thinner, don’t most women? Like any women I have bits I want to hide and whilst I am a size 10 I am very curvy. I have found that there is very little on the market which was on trend but at the same time flattering to a curvy shape. Most designers I love make clothes for a size zero which simply doesn’t work for most women. For me personally, I could never find a right flattering fits. The average lady is a size 14. We work with a great technologist so we can achieve the perfect flattering fit. Our fit models are all my girlfriends, who are all different shapes and sizes.
Whats the hardest part of your job?
Depends which job!
For Marek and Mason, it is working in a Moroccan factory in 45 degree heat with no air conditioning. When the stock arrives in the U.K., we undertake a massive stock take which involves lots of paper work.
For House of Mason the bit I hate is telling someone they didn’t get the job…I believe there is no failure only learning but it can be heartbreaking when you know someone wants something so badly and you are that person letting them down.
What is the best part of your job?
Best part of my job is making people smile. This can be one of two things. Seeing someone feel a million dollars in clothes that you have created which is actually quite emotional. I actually love seeing the clothes styled on different people as every dress is unique to that person.
With House of Mason, it is phoning that person and telling them they have got the job! To many people this is life changing. Whether this is putting a client on the ladder or simply getting someone their dream job which you know is going to be a game changer.
What do you think it takes to be a Girl boss?
There are not enough women in senior roles. We have different challenges in life to manage such as running a home and bringing up a family. But there is no reason why we can’t have both. I think flexibility and trust is key and I don’t like to mirco manage. One of my team has recently returned to work after having a baby. So she works remotely 3 days. Her hours are flexible to work around her child care. This means so much to a young mum. I have worked in companies where there is no flexibility and I don’t believe this encourages new mum’s to go back to work. I don’t believe you have to be sat at a desk 24/7 to make things happen. I also believe that whilst I am the boss we are actually a team and I have the best people around me to allow me to do my job. You are only as good as your team right.
What would you say the most important thing is in running an online business? What has been the greatest lesson you have learnt?
You really need to keep on top of things. Whilst on line is brilliant for exposure and everything has become digital these days there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. It’s not all about posting pretty pictures, there has to be a message.
I think the biggest lesson I have learnt is, whilst imagery is key, it is actually the posts of real people in our clothes that sell. Because let’s be honest reality isn’t a touched up photograph making you look a size 0 with a breath taking sunset and a tequila sunrise.
How do you make sure Marek and Mason stand out above the competition?
I would have to say that our brand works for any age whether you are 20 or 50. The shapes and style appeal I think to all ages.
I met you at a Pop Up show event, do you consider events, trade shows, pop up shops, PR events a good way to reach new audiences?
I worked on stalls for a long time before Marek and Mason even existed and that was very much like a weekly pop up. I guess from that we got involved in private parties and little events. Many of our current customers are still with us today from those days. I am a big fan of events where women can get together, try on clothes, drink wine and meet new people. There is something very comforting and empowering about group of women getting together and supporting each other in their ventures.
How important is Social Media in reaching your audience?
We are lucky to be partnered with Silkfred as they give us incredible exposure and PR which has really helped in getting the brand name out there.
How did you get the word out about Marek and Mason, when you first started? did it grow organically through word of mouth and referrals or did social media play a role in generating a buzz?
My customer base came from about 5 years ago when I originally had a facebook page and a stall. It grew organically from there.
Marek and Mason is currently stocked on Silk Fred. What advice would you give to a new start up who is keen to approach buyers?
Silk Fred has been a great platform for us and an incredible support. They are growing rapidly and have huge presence on social media and in the press. The Head of PR Laura has been a fan of the brand from the start and has been fantastic support. The founder Emma came up with an idea that nobody else was doing well, at the time and has made it an incredible success. I admire people like Emma who just take an idea, get it out there and make it happen. They support all levels of brands and many independents like us which allows young brands to get out there. With many other distributors there is so much red tape to get through and they miss opportunities.
How do you find the balance between running a successful business and happiness?
I am very lucky in that I absolutely love what I do. I am surrounded by dresses and fashion every day so what is there not to like. I think the key of happiness is to find something you enjoy doing. If you can’t be passionate and excited about what you do then why do it? Life is too short.
What are your fashion predictions for A/W17/SS18?
Expect to be wearing a lot of red this winter and brown is the new black. Victorian collars, big shoulders and the return of the shoulder pads. oversized blazers. big wide belts to clinch in the waist are a massive trend that is coming through now and taking us into winter. Print and Winter florals are big which will continue into Spring Summer 18.
Who are your Girl Boss Inspirations?
There are so many amazing female leaders who inspire me every day for different reasons
After work, how do you find time to relax?
Life is always busy. My boyfriend is head of marketing for a major record label so I guess we are not really a 9-5 couple as his job involves a lot of travelling as does mine . If he’s on a photo or video shoot he doesn’t finish till the job is done! Luckily we both love what we do and are privileged to do and see some amazing things. Whilst we are not always at fashion parties, festivals and music gigs but we do get to enjoy the perks with friends. I am a shopaholic and spend a lot of time in flee markets, savage yards looking for new interior finds. We are currently renovating and decorating so I am more obsessed than usual. I am a bit of a vintage whore too especially when it comes to dresses that aren’t my own. To completely switch you can’t beat a hot bath, bit of Coronation Street and a glass of red but my biggest guilty pleasure at the moment is Love Island!
What are your top tips for starting a successful fashion brand?
I think in either business the same rules apply. It’s important to know exactly what message you are trying to portray, stick to what that is and don’t try and side track doing things that aren’t really relevant to your business. For example if you are a dress brand stick to making really amazing dresses and don’t add in jeans because suddenly that’s what is on trend. It’s best to do something really well than be average at doing a few things. For me having a great team is critical. I couldn’t do what I do without my team. Having a vision and a passion as super important and being able to take constructive criticism and feedback is essential.