Leeds designer makes London Fashion debut

Mary Benson, who debuted at London Fashion Week last week.
Mary Benson, who debuted at London Fashion Week last week.
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Up-and-coming Leeds designer Mary Benson makes her London Fashion Week debut this weekend when she presents her new collection at the prestigious Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Mary, 24, from Seacroft in Leeds, has been selected by a panel of fashion industry insiders to showcase her gothic and fantasy inspired designs.

She said: “I’m just so happy. I’ve been working all year to get to this point. It’s the start of something new.”

But Mary, who now lives in London, did reveal that the inspiration for her latest designs came from the trips she still makes to Whitby each year with her parents, Fred and Christine - in particular, the famous Whitby Goth weekends.

“There’s loads of craziness going on, with everyone dressed up,” she said. “So the collection is mostly quite dark, and I’ve been using loads of dark denim, so it starts quite gothic, but then with shots of bright pastels. It’s like a weird Dali-Disney world. My own take on it. But it’s easy on the eye, and sparkling.”

Mary began her fashion career as a teenager at Corpus Christi High School in Leeds, selling bags and bows to friends. At 17, she featured on TV’s Mary Queen of Shops, with Mary Portas, after which demand soared for her striped metallic dress (now on display at Corpus Christi).

In 2008, she created a shop called Pieces of Eight at Clarence Dock, with seven fashion friends, and her designs featured on the catwalk of the Great Yorkshire Show.

After a diploma at Leeds College of Art, Mary moved to London in 2009 for a Fashion Design BA at the University of Westminster. At 19, she worked with Alexander McQueen, spent her weekends working for designer Richard Nicoll and went to Paris Fashion Week with Vivienne Westwood. Singer Paloma Faith and Radio 1 presenter Gemma Cairney are also fans of Mary’s designs, Mary’s mum, Christine Benson, said the family was immensely proud of what her daughter had achieved.