Universal Channel's 100% Character Uncovered series is shining a light on people who inspire others through their extraordinary character. Introducing fashion designer, Mary Benson.
Who would've thought that my parents buying me a sewing machine for Christmas when I was at school would one day lead to my designs appearing in Vogue alongside the likes of Gucci and Prada?
I don't think anybody would have guessed I'd end up in the fashion industry. But I knew what I liked doing - even at that early age - and fashion fast became my number one passion.
Armed with only that sewing machine and a few random cut-offs of materials I could scrap together, I started off messing around making cushions and bags to sell to my school friends.
I didn't really know what I was doing, except that fashion had set off a spark within me and it was something that I wanted to seriously pursue. Our family wasn't blessed with huge amounts of money, so I used to buy material from the £1-a-metre stall at Leeds market and make bags and clothes then customise them with glitter.
Looking back, it must have been a strange sight to see a fifteen year old girl dragging a suitcase around Leeds trying to sell her product to boutiques. At the time it just seemed normal to me, especially when people started happily buying my clothes.
This gave me a real confidence to pursue fashion seriously, and after school I managed to get into Leeds Art College. My first real break came when I was accepted onto the national TV show Mary Queen of the Shops, which one of my tutors had told me about.
The daunting task of having to present a collection to Mary and a panel of experts on National TV wasn't lost on me, and juggling college and creating a collection definitely wasn't easy.
My passion and desire to win helped push me through the difficulty combined with the support of my wonderful parents (my Mum and Dad helping me cut out patterns on our living room floor!). To my absolute surprise, I ended up winning. Then I just had the small matter of stocking the shop with 50 dresses a month to worry about...
Despite the growing expectation I was now placing on myself, I had clear steps in my head of where I wanted to go, and this pushed me to get onto the fashion degree course at Westminster University. Suddenly I was surrounded by so many other talented and motivated fashion designers, all of whom seemed so experienced. At that point, I think it would have been easy to go into my shell, but I've always followed my own path and not worried too much about what other people are doing, so I treated Westminster University like anywhere else.
Although I'd been accepted onto my course, I knew I had to get some proper hands on experience. When I saw an advert for an internship with Alexander McQueen, I was so excited and determined to get this break, I just couldn't face the possibility of no for an answer so I literally called them every day until they gave me the job. I was on cloud nine - one minute I was living with my mum and dad in Leeds, the next I was in London and working for Alexander McQueen!
So you could say things were starting to get a bit serious, and I knew that if I wanted to make something out of this I needed to really step it up a notch. So right in the middle of Uni, I took two years out and took on a job at a property & destination retail PR company so I could learn about the press and how to PR myself - I knew I had to learn the basics to get where I wanted to be.
I then felt I had the pieces in place to start working on my own label. I wanted to generate some hype before graduating so I focused on making one-off pieces. It was a gamble, but the move paid off because word spread - and soon the likes of Rita Ora, Ellie Goulding and Little Mix were wearing my pieces. It was such a buzz.
I'm literally driven by fear because one bad collection can mean no sponsorship and money for the next season. But I also know whatever happens I'll just keep going, because I know this is what I'm supposed to be doing. My mum always says don't change, to just be yourself and you can't really go wrong. So that's what I've done, and that's what I plan to keep doing; making clothes in sexy, wearable shapes to make women look and feel beautiful - but with surreal and outlandish prints inspired by my dreams and imagination.