Mary studied the Extended Diploma in Art & Design and then the Foundation Diploma in Art & Design at Leeds Arts University before moving to London to start a BA (Hons) Fashion Design degree at the University of Westminster.
Alongside studying Mary launched her own fashion label, which Elle magazine recently summed up as ‘a seriously cool blend of colour print and sporty shapes’. Her bright contemporary designs are getting noticed, Rita Ora wore a couple of her pieces at this year’s Wireless Festival as did one of Little Mix at the Brits. With other TV presenters following suit and demand for her most recent collections rocketing, we caught up with Mary to find out how she is managing to balance the business and her third and final year of study.
“My final collection is the main thing, I am looking for materials and sponsorship and putting all my efforts in to my next collection in the hope that it gets picked for the Graduate Fashion show in London. Only half of the graduating Fashion students are shown on the catwalk, so that’s what I’m working towards. After graduating I’ve decided I’m not going to apply for jobs, it has never suited me and I’ve always wanted to work for myself. I’m going to really go for it with my own label, working on it full time. I’ll be looking for support with my first three collections after graduating, from schemes such as Fashion East or NEWGEN".
Mary is also setting up a new e-commerce website which will go live in 2014. “I’m working with a factory to produce my collection so the pieces can be ordered online in a range of sizes. At the moment I make everything with a seamstress, but we just can’t handle the amount of requests coming in, and we need to get more stockists. There is a lot to do!”
Mary has always shown an entrepreneurial streak from her time at Leeds Arts University 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 50s 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.” On moving to London Mary has not shied away from taking the same approach with the prestigious stores on her doorstep. She 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. At that time the vinyl was mainly cut into raindrops, but her designs have become more and more complex, now imitating stained glass windows.
“I’m so unorganised and always have been, although I love a deadline and that’s when I find real inspiration. The vinyl that features a lot in my label came about as I missed my slot in the print studio, so I had to think creatively about how to create a pattern for a module brief at University, and a friend introduced me to this particular vinyl that is washable, but that can be cut easily.”
We asked Mary what she remembered about her times at Leeds Arts University, “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 is definitely still one of the best Universitys to study your Foundation if you are interested in Fashion.”