Meet the creatives series: Mason Newman Studios
Mason Newman Studios was founded in late 2018 by the Birmingham born self-taught designer who pledges to merge the gap between the streetwear and luxury fashion market.
The designer's ethos is embracing the imperfections he sees through his unique designs. Picture Assistant Connor Picken sits down with Mason to discuss turning his humble beginnings into a multimillion-pound brand, life in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic and what the future holds for the young successful designer for the rest of 2020.
Hi Mason, you’ve been in the fashion world for a few years now. Talk to me about your latest project release?
I recently launched a capsule collection titled 7 days. Each day for 7 days I released 2 new pieces. It was my take on what Hollywood is or would be, with a typical Mason Newman twist. That capsule ended with my most personal design yet Good Luck Mason. There's a super emotional image of me taken last year by my friend Max Raphael paired together with the final message my grandad wrote to me before he died - "Good luck Mason”. I just thought we all need a little luck on our journey to Hollywood as we enter this new normal. I don’t think I'll ever work on a graphic that means more to me than that.
I’ve also just launched my first artist collaboration with French DJ Sylvain Armand. He has worked with David Guetta and Martin Garrix and was handpicked to open for Swedish House Mafia's sold-out reunion tour last year. I’ve always been annoyed as a fan of artists that all we get is a printed black poor quality t-shirt, I feel the fans and the artist deserves much more than that, so that’s been really cool to work on.
Tell me about your Journey. What projects/opportunities has led you to release your luxury fashion brand, Mason Newman Studios?
So, all of this kind of started in 2016, I was still in school and everyone else was revising for GCSEs whilst I was designing. I remember drawing a t-shirt in one of my exam papers and ripping it out so I didn’t forget the idea. I thought to myself, f**k I can’t forget this, so I sacrificed my IT GCSE for that tee.
I started selling caps I designed around the school for less than I paid, I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing people wear something I had designed around the school. I became instantly addicted and at that point, I knew that fashion would be what I would dedicate my life too.
I then officially launched a website/brand called OSER VIVRE which is French for Dare to Live around 8 months after leaving school, selling caps only. I started with a £200 loan from my grandad, which was a hell of a lot of money back then, in fact, it was his pension for that week, he had to budget. I don’t come from a privileged background, where I’m from the only opportunity you have is to live a “normal” life, that’s not for me. There were no opportunities there and I knew the only way to create opportunities was to create them myself and work mega hard towards a dream. Then I built the brand up and moved into designing graphic tees and hoods. I did that for a while, made a lot of industry connections and friends, built a social media following but then, I became bored.
I realised I wanted to move into the luxury market and that's where my passion lies. I want to create the things I wanted as a kid but couldn’t afford This is like a repayment to 11-year-old self, looking in the window of the Louis Vuitton store dreaming. So August 2018 I let go of my first brand, just left it there to do nothing and launched Mason Newman Studios, I did the same thing with this as I did OSER VIVRE. Year one I focused on building a fan base/following, before launching my “PILOT” collection last year.
You’re a 20-year-old from Birmingham, United Kingdom. How did your childhood and growing up in Birmingham influence and mould you to your success today?
I think it was more about the things around me that inspired me as a kid as I grew up in a poor but creative environment. My Mom and I used to sit down and paint together for hours, she also wrote poems and read them to me before bed literally until I was a teenager! My brothers would also write and create music around me, my brothers taught me to play the piano and how to write music and rap. My dad was a musician who would teach and play the guitar to me. I also spent a lot of time with my Grandad who was a “dellboy” type of character and would find creative ways to sell things and make money, so we didn't have a lot of money but I had all of the creative inspiration around me that I needed.
Where I grew up in Birmingham wasn’t a nice area, I'd see a lot of things happen, you know bad things, bad people after school etc. I was one choice away from stepping into the wrong crowd, but I wanted better for myself but mostly for my Mom. So seeing people do bad things made me strive to be something better and different.
Did you always know you wanted to design from a young age and do you have any formal training in textiles/fashion?
I always knew that wanted to work in the creative field, where I could be my own boss as I hate being told what to do and the that I couldn’t think outside of the box or break the status quo. I didn’t realise I wanted to go into fashion early on but I always did things that led in that direction as far back as people remember. I used to wear full formal suits when I was 7-years-old because I wanted to be like my grandad and my style would constantly change, from suits to skulls to sweatsuits to football tops. In the words of my mom: “you weren’t like all the other kids that were your age”. I didn't have any formal training as I feel it's not for me and learn better alone, by teaching myself. I enjoy getting inside my own head as all of the tools that I need are there, that’s my toolbox. Today you can literally google “how to build a house” and they’ll be thousands of videos to teach you how to build a house. So why not do that?
I never use formal fashion terminology and call my collections “acts” such as Shakespeares plays. This is my Shakespeare, my time to tell stories.
You have achieved great success at such a young age, what is your secret?
Passion, hard work and determination to prove people wrong. I love the fact that a kid like me isn’t supposed to be in the circles I’m in, doing the things I’m doing, meeting the people I’m meeting. I'm completely where I shouldn’t be and I love that. There's an imperfection in it, imperfection is beauty and perfection is unreachable.
I have a great team and crazy determined friends around me that I can just call for advice which keeps me inspired. Keeping inspired is the key to all this, listening to music also keeps me inspired all the time, mostly Kanye’s music. It's important to always surround yourself with successful people is important too, people you can look up too.
I also realise that I have no plan B, no trust fund, no rich parents if I f**k this up and can end up with nothing. That keeps me inspired all the time.
What's next for you, do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline?
I’m working on a few projects right now and finalising my “ACT TWO” collection which launches in September ( spoiler ) which is inspired by my childhood. I'm also releasing a coffee table book with my friend Max Raphael exploring the art and form of the human body which will be mega cool and last but not least, I’m re-launching back OSER VIVRE as an archive collection. This will feature unreleased pieces that will be available to buy and will be launched over summer.
You’ve clearly shown your creative talent in the fashion world. Would you ever take your creativity and put it into something other than clothes?
I do have dreams and things to prove. Take Kanye (West) for example, everybody told him that he couldn’t do fashion and that he should stick to rapping. Now, look at Yeezy. I also admire that Tom Ford is both a successful Filmmaker and fashion designer. We’re humans, we are capable of everything. Use that toolbox.
How have you been dealing with the lockdown, and kept productive?
It's a crazy time, I even had coronavirus myself which was the first time I’ve sat back in the last 4 years.
I've continued to work on new projects and used this time to work on those projects one of which is 7 DAYS produced during isolation. It's a crazy time we’re in right now, we don’t know how the world is going to end up but we just have to keep going and plan for when we’re out of lockdown.
Last question: There will be lots of young aspiring fashion designers and creatives who will look up to you. What advice would you give them?
Listen to your gut, always as it is never wrong. Don’t let negative comments or vibes affect you turning anything negative into the motivation to do better. When you’re just starting out you really need to stick with what you believe in without letting anyone sway your opinion or ideas. Think outside of the box and stay focused.
Work hard and good luck!
Interview by Connor Picken