Saturday, February 18, 2012


Posted by Bethan Holt, Fashion Junior at Large

Not many designers score their very own display in the window of a world famous department store in their first season, but that is exactly what happened to MASC duo Duncan Shaw and Billy Yick. After being approached at September’s Vauxhall Fashion Scout exhibition , the designers were given just three weeks to turn around the pieces which ended up being seen by hundreds of thousands of people passing the Oxford Street store.  They also saw their collection sold through the Bright Young Things pop-up shop which accompanied the windows. In fact, their pieces are still available to buy online from Selfridges, as well as at Young British Designers

MASC designers Duncan Shaw and Billy Yick
One of the wing-pleat dresses from  MASC SS12

How do you follow that? For MASC, the answer is a luxurious AW12 collection entitled ‘Shadow Box’. The colours and shapes of this collection have been informed by the film ‘In the Mood for Love’  which Duncan says has a ‘60s mandarin aesthetic- it’s dark and poetic’. Where the SS12 collection used wings to create the silhouette (dresses with fitted bodices jutting into angular pleats), this time it is the rectangle  which forms the basis of each piece.
The MASC AW12 collection on a rail
One of the mood boards featuring Japanese pattern cutting and other references from the East
 Duncan and Billie both studied at Nottingham Trent, graduating in 2007. After they’d finished, Duncan took up an offer to study at the Institut Francais de la Mode in Paris- he was the only British graduate in the intake. Billie followed him there. ‘Our time in Paris still has a huge influence on our work’ Duncan says, pointing out a Halston style 70s shot on the mood board with the caption ‘Nuits de Paris’.  These two seem so calm and are so clearly completely in sync- they describe how they work on the same mannequin, taking one half each and eventually blending their two creations into a MASC piece.

Another mood board- textured mandarin collared dresses, glamorous night time shots and mysterious corners.
 Where the first collection comprised just two colours and was made up mostly of dresses, the AW12 has a more comprehensive palette (maroon, navy, bright red, cream…) and a foray into different textures with ribbed wool, suede and an innovative material which is printed, glazed and laser cut to create a feather-like effect.

 And it doesn’t stop there; the structured scarves are super cool, with their trailing tails and upturned collars. Alongside these, there are leather belts with folded back ends so the smooth and  rough sides of the leather are next to one another- Duncan makes these himself. The pair are very proud that each item is made in London, with materials sourced from English mills and specialist factories here and in Italy. 

The structured scarf

The double mandarin collar dress (image by Phill Taylor)

Belts made by Duncan
MASC have also expanded their horizons for AW12 by including trousers (one slim leg, one wide leg style) and coats in the collection. They are passionate about getting the cut exactly right. They have a dedicated pattern cutter, Alice, working with them to perfect the process.  The outerwear is a key  part of the  ‘armoured elegance’ philosophy which underpins everything Duncan and Billie do.  There are a couple of short- length shrug on jackets as well as more substantial pieces in amazingly soft mohair- Duncan calls it ‘plush’ and I couldn’t find a better word myself!  Zip makers YKK have been  collaborating with the pair so there are chunky zipped pockets on the coats and also running down the back of dresses . 

Alice the pattern cutter altering pieces in the run up to the VFS exhibition

Split details on one of the coats

My favourite piece from the collection- the coat dress

Different colours and fabric trims have been used on opposing pockets- ‘We knew the collection was very symmetrical’ say Duncan ‘so we decided to break that up a bit by not matching each side on the pockets’. Thus, on the sleeveless coat dress (above and below), one pocket is red while the other is navy.
The coat dress contrasted against the dark wood walls at The Town Hall Hotel (image by Phill Taylor-

The look book, shot by Phill Taylor, brings the collection back to its initial starting point, that dark Chinese film ‘In the Mood For Love’. ‘We chose The Town Hall Hotel (in East London) because it reminded us of the hotel in the film- all the dark walls. It was the perfect setting for showing off everything we’ve created’ Duncan told me.  

If the shots tickle your fancy then you should pop along to see MASC’s collection up close.

 You can visit them at The Vauxhall Fashion Scout venue, on until Wednesday, at Freemasons’ Hall, 60, Great Queen Street, WC2B  5AZ. Alternatively, they’ll be at the VFS Paris showrooms from Thursday March 1st to Tuesday March 6th at 18, Rue de 4 Fils, 75003. 

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