“My personal style is… my own…”
– Ann Mashburn
I have to admit that it was my mother who first directed me to Ann Mashburn. It was just last year when she stumbled upon the most gorgeous tartan plaid dress in a magazine. She directly sent it my way. Ever since, I’ve browsed the Ann Mashburn website at least once weekly and am beginning my own small collection of her pieces.
In three words, Mashburn describes her company as classic, simple, and cool. This company fills a void in the market for women’s clothing. It provides those classically feminine and southern pieces that can remain in your closet year after year. The fabrics are luxurious, the seasonal colors stunning and always on mark, and the cuts – flattering, sophisticated, but never too suggestive. In a world where in-your-face is the norm, the bright collection from Ann Mashburn is a breath of fresh air.
After opening her first store in Atlanta and then another in Houston, it was wonderful to finally catch up with one of my new favorite designers and ask her a little bit about her plans for her company and what’s to come in 2015. And, I can’t forget to mention the dashing line for men – Sid Mashburn (named after her husband whom she co-designs with). If you are looking for the perfect holiday attire to twirl you through the upcoming season of cocktail parties – you’ve come to the right place. You can’t go wrong with the Mashburns.
A Q&A with fashion designer Ann Mashburn.
How did Ann Mashburn, the company, come to be? Can you share a little about the company’s history and its story?
Well, I have been in fashion one way or another my entire career. My very first job was at Vogue working as an assistant for Fashion Editor and Stylist Polly Mellon. It was an incredible experience working alongside Polly and collaboratively with visionary greats like Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Steven Meisel. I then continued at Condé Nast as an editor/stylist at Glamour, and later as an in-house stylist for J.Crew.
Sid and I met in NYC in our early twenties – he himself working as a menswear designer for J.Crew, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and finally Lands’ End. Sid always knew he wanted to branch out and do his own thing, so after 25+ years in the business, we decided to go for it- opening first the Sid Mashburn men’s shop in Atlanta in 2007- the idea being old-school English men’s club meets Italian tailoring shop, but with a very fun, easy American spirit. We both always had this sort of mental, analog Pinterest board brewing in our heads of all the things we loved and wanted to put together in one place. The very personal mix of passion, product, and that Italian tradition of thoughtful shopping and a certain dependance on the shopkeeper to guide and teach you. It was missing in the men’s market in the US… so we just… went for it…! And then organically, after a few years we made the decision to expand in 2010 and open a women’s counterpart, Ann Mashburn, with a bit of a playful, but sophisticated French flair. I’m a mother of 5 daughters (!!) so it was very important for me to create collections for women of timeless classics and essentials mixed with a curation of cheerful things I’ve found along the way…
Would you consider your company to be a lifestyle brand?
Absolutely. We still have some product categories to get into for our own label, but we try to offer most everything you need except cars or food. In the sense that we are selling a brand & a concept & a look & a mindset much more than pieces of clothing.
A typical day in the life of Ann Mashburn looks like:
I am a mom first… so feed the animals and the children… carpool… quick jog then quick change and off to office. Meetings, meetings, and work, work (with a taco somewhere in between for lunch) then back to momdom to pick up my little basketball player and squeeze in dinner or a piano lesson first…. nothing too glamorous. I have to have a bath at the end of the night, pretty much no matter what… and a little juice glass of wine doesn’t hurt.
Ann Mashburn, Houston, TX
What made you choose to start your company in Atlanta first? What brought you to Houston?
When Sid and I decided to take the plunge and do our own thing, we started with a list of 9 cities. Out of the blue, Atlanta came up & Sid jumped on it. We plucked it out of the sky… no connection to the city at all. But when we came down to visit, the crocuses were blooming, the people were so nice & everything just seemed to fall into place. I grew up all over the Midwest, but Sid and I met in New York, where we lived for ages. He is from Mississippi so perhaps we were thinking of the south? I have no idea, except that we visited so many cities, but this was the one that felt really special and right at the time.
Houston came to us in the same way last year – Texas is just so much its own world, and we knew we wanted to be there. One of our daughters went to school in Austin, Sid’s sister & her family lived in Houston so it felt a bit familiar. Again, the people & the feel just led us there. We had such a great customer base in Texas already from our online shops, and we fell in love with our location and the people we met —it just made sense to make it our first “away game.” It’s been an incredible market for us so far… we celebrate our first anniversary in Houston in December. That validation has been great for us, and now we’ve got more cities in the pipeline, so stay tuned.
All of our spots so far have been incredibly diverse, with great history, great people, and a real space in the market.
As we’re approaching your 1 year anniversary for Houston, any scoop on what’s next?
More new product! Amazing new bags and shoes – the first of which hits the shops this week … but Sid and I are going on a design trip to Italy next week to develop more accessories and footwear.
Where do you source inspiration for your seasonal designs?
Besides the usual, one of the things we like to draw on is our experience. Also, we tend to design from the inside of our closet…so it’s what’s NOT in our closet that we’re kinda musing on. This sounds like such a repeat from everyone else in the industry, but it’s the usual suspects: travel, culture, music, literature, and pop culture from when we were growing up.
What are the most important characteristics the finished product must contain when crafting your designs from start to finish?
Quality of materials. It is just like cooking – if you start with the right ingredients, it makes a massive difference. The quality has to go through to the end –the colors, the fabrics , the trims & then of course the cut, sew, make,fit ,finish – and it all has to be the best. Simple and perfect is hard!
A lot of people look at expensive things and think “you can get that at the mall” and that is often true as far as the way it looks from a distance. But the construction isn’t as careful, the stitching is different, the fabric isn’t as nice, the buttons and thread and trim aren’t the same, and you’re left with something that just doesn’t fit the same or last as long… and ultimately costs so much more in the end when you replace it. We love cheap and cheerful, but we have to stand behind our own product a little more.
Where do you find such luxurious fabrics?
We have been in the business for so long that we’re really fortunate to have fantastic relationships with both established and under-the-radar mills and suppliers. We make it a point to work with the best so that we can be really proud of the finished product. Most of our fabric comes from Italy. Some of our men’s tailored fabric comes from England where they do fantastic wools and tweeds so well. And we love India for handwoven silks and selvedge chambrays.
fabric swatch board for planning
Ann Mashburn – inspiration board
the FIRST Ann Mashburn handbag – introducing the Merendina!
What are a few of your bestsellers?
Our shirts are really our bread & butter – our boyfriend shirt and popovers and western shirts are a staple. We also have a fantastic line of sweaters which are can’t-live-withouts…
What can we expect to see from Ann and Sid Mashburn in Houston this coming holiday season?
All of our great fall things, plus a little sparkle for evening – super chic gold sweater – gold loafer – boyfriend sweaters – easy wraparound ball skirts in handwoven silk for evening… and Sid has the perfect tuxedo.
It is such a season for formal dressing! I love my ball skirts with a t-shirt and fantastic heels… and closer to the holidays we will be in leggings and socks and heavy-gauge cashmere sweaters around the house. And, then I wear one of my plaid capes almost every day, because it’s like a blanket/coat hybrid, which makes it perfect for Texas winters.
On Sid’s side, he has the perfect tuxedo for all the black-tie events around the holidays. We are big on the navy sport jacket always, and like heavier, softer materials for colder weather like flannels, tweeds, and cashmere.
Ann Mashburn Wraparound Ball Skirt
Ann Mashburn Lucchese Classic Boot
Ann Mashburn Plaid Wrap Cape
How do you hope to see your company grow?
We are opening stores in the next few years in key cities — as soon as spring 2015. Watch for us. Houston has been an incredible market for us. And, our online business is growing like crazy along with our brick-and-mortars, which is exciting because there are no geographic locations and the shop never closes.
What’s been the single greatest or happiest moment of the company’s journey thus far?
When you work so hard to design the interior of a store, before any of the product even gets there… you “see” it visually in your head… and then when it comes out even better… that is pretty great. When I have walked into each of the shops at that moment, before we get going I get so excited – and then seeing them filled with happy people.
When you aren’t working you are…
Hanging domestically… I love my home life and I love my husband Sid & my girls so I am usually just living amongst them and happy…
Find Ann Mashburn on the web, Twitter, & Instagram.