Thursday 21 July 2016

2inspire Inspirational Woman: Artist Debbi Mason

BORN in 1957, Debbi quit her fashion design degree to become a buyer for Joseph, and she worked on Chelsea’s King’s Road at the height of the punk era, when Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood ruled the roost.  She entered journalism via the London Evening Standard and Harpers & Queen, then helped launch Elle, before contributing to many magazines, including Marie Claire, Arena and The Face. After having the first of two children, she was headhunted to join US Vogue’s younger sister, Mademoiselle. From there, she moved to Vogue to work with the infamous Anna Wintour as Fashion Editor. The two did not see eye-to-eye and, eventually, Debbi went freelance – she worked with Oprah Winfrey on O Magazine and dressed Julia Roberts in vintage Valentino when Roberts won her Oscar for Erin Brokovitch (the first vintage dress ever worn to the Oscars). Roberts always told Debbi: ‘I want to look like you!’ Debbi set up her own clothing label and had her second child. She narrowly escaped the Twin Towers collapse and decided to move back to England, where she took some time off before meeting her artist partner, David McAdam Freud, son of acclaimed artist Lucian Freud. She has led an incredible life! Be inspired by her interview.

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
Since I have become an artist, there is no such thing as a typical day. Much of the work I produce is the final part of a long research process. Consequently, I can be going to see an exhibition, taking photographs, making notes, painting, looking at images online or in books, doing some embroidery or walking my dogs on the beach whilst in contemplation. One of the biggest challenges is removing myself from everyday distractions.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
I had a long and successful career as a stylist. I decided I wanted to spend more time with my children so took a leap of faith and decided to walk away from the fashion business. Becoming an artist took some time and a period of building my confidence towards making that decision. The breakthrough came when I collaborated with my partner, David Freud on an exhibition. He was already an established artist.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
When I was a stylist, being a founder member of Elle magazine, working with Julia Roberts and dressing her in vintage Valentino for the Oscar she won for Erin Brokovitch, working with Oprah Winfrey. Being brave enough to become an artist, selling my work and surviving whilst following my heart.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Deciding to walk away from a business which paid me handsomely and in which I had achieved wide recognition. I was in need of a fresh challenge and stimulation. I am still not sure whether that was an act of courage and principle or just a little foolish.

What are your future plans for the business?
To continue working as an artist, seek new venues to exhibit and continue to sell my art. I am currently working on our next Freud&Mason exhibition entitled 'Our Nature, from poetic to grotesque which is opening at Worthing Museum and Art Gallery early September 2016.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently? I wouldn't change a thing. Whilst I didn't plan my career path as a stylist, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am lucky to have the opportunity to reinvent myself, have a change of direction and a second career.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
Women will always face prejudice in the commercial world, as most of them will, at some point be juggling their career and family. It is difficult for women to compete with men on that basis.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry? My advice would be the same, whatever the business. Identify your passion and stimulus, follow it with commitment and dedication.

What or who inspires you in business and why?
Ai Weiwei is a massive inspiration. Not only is he a hugely talented artist, he has also become successful against all odds. He manages to have a political voice and make send meaningful messages to his audience through his art.

What is your favourite inspirational quote? Marie Curie: 'Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.'


  1. A great stylist, but not a nice person. She sees everyone, particularly men, as mere stepping stones to get where she wants. Sad.

      If you can’t say anything nice don’t say SHIT
      YOU SOD!

      If you can’t say anything nice don’t say SHIT
      YOU SOD!