As the fourth season of The Crown reaches Netflix, all eyes will be on the wardrobe of Emma Corrin, who plays the young Diana Spencer. Shoulder pads and flowing skirts, puffed sleeves and piecrust collars. It’s going to be an 80s-fest bound to trigger a surge in desire. And nobody is in a better position to deliver it than British designer Anna Mason.
Anna Mason London was launched by the half-British, half-Swedish designer in 2012. It was a ramping up of her business, which initially sold pretty yet distinctive clothes via friends’ houses to a growing group of in-the-know devotees.
The low-key sales operation disguised the fact that Mason is a highly skilled graduate of the Royal College of Art and was an early recipient of the Karl Lagerfeld scholarship, followed up by an offer from the designer to work for him. “I wanted to work at Chanel,” recalls Mason from her South London studio. “He said, ‘Anna, come to Fendi. Make it trendy.’” But she ended up working on his eponymous label, eventually decamping to Italy for positions at Max Mara and Valentino before returning to Britain for love. Her husband, Harry, is a Brit who works in “strategic comms” and they have two teenage children.
“I wanted to work at Chanel. [Karl] said, ‘Anna, come to Fendi. Make it trendy.’”
The collections are made-to-order from Mason’s Web site or sold directly on sites such as Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi, with a four-week turnaround and a patina of polish that gained her a place last year in Walpole Luxury Group’s Brands of Tomorrow. But what happens to a designer such as Mason, one of the cadre of U.K.-based designers such as Emilia Wickstead, Alice Temperley, and Alessandra Rich, who are go-tos for the heady nights at the Serpentine party, the annual V&A bash, and Wimbledon fortnight, now that such pleasures have been canceled?
“Luckily, Saks put their whole autumn-winter buy on mannequins on their shop floor and told us it sold really well,” she says. “And although we have Zoom appointments, many people surprisingly are choosing to visit us to order. I think they want something enjoyable to do. It’s very heartening.” And while nobody could describe her collection as athleisure, it’s not all party frocks. Her dungarees are regular best-sellers, and this season her jumbo cord joggers—only for the very slender, I would say—and denim tick the more-casual box.
In the meantime, if you’re craving an 80s-aristo, high-necked shirt after your Crown binge, she’s got it nailed. Even the Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Diana’s daughter-in-law, has Mason firmly on her radar.
Alexandra Shulman, the longest-serving editor of British Vogue, is the author of the new memoir Clothes … and Other Things That Matter