Mary studied the Extended Diploma in Art & Design and then the Foundation Diploma in Art & Design before setting up her brand MARY in 2018.

Mary’s break came after appearing on Mary Queen of Shops with presenter Mary Portas, showcasing her designs on national television. They caught the eye of many celebrities and have since been worn by singers such as Rita Ora, Ellie Goulding, Paloma Faith and Little Mix.

In 2018 she launched a new fashion label, MARY, born out of her love of vintage patterns and colourful prints. Sustainability is at the heart of the brand, alongside her Made-to-order pieces, her pre-loved and upcycled garments are transformed by Mary and her small team. Collaborations include Terry De Havilland on bespoke shoes; Stephen Jones OBE on several hat collections; Tatty Devine on a series of showpieces; ASOS for a Christmas party season shoes and accessories range; Gemma Cairney on a limited edition up-cycled beret collection.

Mary lives in York with her fiancé Tadgh and their two sons.

Image: Courtesy of Mary Benson 

Mary showed an early entrepreneurial streak from her time as a student and even before she started the Extended Diploma. She was always looking for opportunities to make and sell clothes, she told us:
“When I was 16 I started putting together 50’s style dresses with a seamstress in Leeds, I was selling these to local shops like Blue Rinse and I started working with a Leeds based factory.”

Image: Courtesy of Mary Benson 

Initially living in London before basing her brand in York, Mary jumped at an opportunity to do demonstrations in Selfridges in the lead up to Fashion Week, and after running a demonstration on how to customise denim, she was invited back to do customisation on items purchased by shoppers with her holographic vinyl.

Image: Courtesy of Mary Benson

We asked Mary what she remembered about her times studying in Leeds:

“On the Extended Diploma I remember learning all the technical skills and groundwork, it was really practical and hands on. In Foundation I remember doing a project on entrapment; I was very conceptual at that time and was creating really unusual pieces, making work where it was all about the concept. I think like most people on my course I’ve now found a happy middle ground, making clothes that are also beautiful and wearable as well as thoughtful. I loved going through all those stages though; I think Leeds Arts University is definitely still one of the best places to study your Foundation if you are interested in Fashion.”