Craft / August 2016

Words of Wisdom: David Mason

The Rake speaks to David Mason, Creative Director of Mason & Sons and an aficionado of British design, on economics, style and reveals that there’s a solution to the equation of whether…

It was at first a completely surreal experience meeting Mr David Mason, probably more so for our photographer who was certainly dumfounded when he digested the fact that we were sitting in Ringo Starr, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix’s old home in Montagu Square, Marylebone. Warmly greeted on the threshold of this Georgian townhouse, we proceeded to ensconce ourselves, talk politics, economics and how menswear, in particular the tailoring landscape has changed in recent years. All the while an imperfect, yet perfectly aligned series of framed black-and-white photographs of the building’s famous past-occupants peered down on us, niggling my OCD tendencies. With the aid of his eldest son Elliot, his right-hand man, Mason is leading the charge to represent the best of British craftsmanship and its arsenal of heritage brands on a global scale. Alongside the house's one-to-one service, as well as a taste of British rock history, it provides a long list of ago-old British institutions underneath the umbrella of Mason & Sons.

"There are good signs and there are bad signs that result from Brexit. Now, we're focusing our attention on the United States, which has been our biggest market probably for the last 20-25 years, and as a result, it's a good opportunity to make it even bigger with the devaluation of the sterling. I had a customer from the US who came in this morning. The last time he bought a suit from me it was $1.55 to the pound, and now we are at $1.30, which may drop even further. I think the day after Brexit we did extremely well with our online sales, it’s also one of the other reasons why I was there twice recently. We seem to be sourcing more materials from Europe now so a lot of our costs are in euros which is damaging to a degree. I’d rather have small margin and greater demand than great margin and no business. Roughly 70% of our business is export, so a weak sterling is good for us, if we can produce more, and source more within the UK, we've probably got a good formula.

"If our gentleman would like us to furnish his every need (which he seems to), then it's our objective to be able to do that."

Mason & Sons is now the umbrella; so we have our tailoring brand Anthony Sinclair, which we revived in 2012. We picked a particularly good year to revive James Bond's original tailor, as it was the 50th anniversary of the Bond movies and the Olympic Games were being hosted in the UK, which were opened by her Her Majesty the Queen and lo and behold, James Bond (Daniel Craig). But we also have Mr Fish, who tear up the sartorial rule book with an amazing heritage borne of the peacock revolution, then we stock a number of classic English brands online; Smedley knitwear, Sunspel T-shirts, Ettinger leather goods, Pantherella socks and Derek Rose underwear. Essentially, if our gentleman would like us to furnish his every need (which he seems to), then it's our objective to be able to do that - either in person or online. With Anthony Sinclair, it's very much influenced by and geared towards the whole Bond idea and Sinclair's iconic tailoring for Sean Connery, whilst Mason & Son's isn't about James Bond lifestyle, it's about British design.

The biggest change in tailoring is of course the move towards lightweight designs. We are seeing an increase in demand for half-lined garments and unstructured garments which is new for us. Certainly if there is any area of growth, it's that, because the world is becoming more informal. I've also started seeing a sort of young group of clients who seem to know everything there is to know about tailoring and shirt making. They can take you through every stitch of a garment and that's maybe due to some of the work The Rake and others are doing. Again it's the access to information online, no matter where you are in the world that seems to be helping. We are lucky to get people who want to dress to the nines; if they can afford it then they want to buy bespoke, they don't want made-to-measure.

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Benedict Browne

Benedict is The Rake's Associate Style Editor.