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Mulberry: the story behind the iconic brand

Explore the history of Mulberry, one of the world’s most celebrated accessories brands. Renowned for its passion for leather, British craftsmanship and fresh appeal, the label offers a distinctive and modern collection of handbags, from the classic Bayswater and the retro-inspired Daria hobo to the best-selling Alexa

Marina Nelson,

British brand Mulberry, one of the most celebrated luxury leather specialists in the world, is a dynamic and passionate force in the fashion world. Mulberry’s history spans just over 45 years, making it a relative newcomer compared to established leather brands such as Bally, Loewe and Louis Vuitton, which have lineage dating back centuries.

Mulberry can undoubtedly hold its own, however, and the brand’s success over the last decade is down to its sheer passion for leather, British manufacturing and celebrity-inspired handbag collections derived from Emma Hill, creative director at Mulberry until 2013. Hill’s designs appealed to a younger audience and drew inspiration from popular figures and aspirational models in the media. Her legacy at Mulberry continues through her staple collections such as the best-selling Alexa bag, named after TV presenter and model Alexa Chung.

Origins in Somerset
The family-run Mulberry business was founded by Roger Saul in 1971, in leafy Somerset in south-west England. He inherited a passion for quality and hard-wearing leather from his father, who worked for Clark’s shoemakers. Saul’s passion and knowledge of the leather industry has shaped Mulberry into what it is today – a luxury leather fashion house with a quintessentially English spirit.

The brand’s first pieces were handmade in the family home and Saul’s sister Rosemary designed the Mulberry tree logo, today one of the most recognisable logos in the fashion world. In 1975, the first Mulberry collection was sold from a stall in London’s Portobello Road Market. The minimalist Hunting, Shooting, Fishing collection featured simple leather pieces that were functional, fashionable and understated, such as plaited belts and chokers.

British craftsmanship
Mulberry’s expert team of craftsmen has increased from a staff of one in 1971 to over 600 employees in 2016. More than 50% of its creations are produced in the UK and the brand is listed as one of the largest luxury goods manufacturers in the country. Mulberry is constantly expanding its collection of handbags, but however wide the range becomes, customers can be assured that each piece is expertly finished by a team of artisans who ensure each leather creation is as perfect as the very first Mulberry piece.

‘It’ bags
Mulberry is renowned for creating ‘It’ bags and it’s not hard to see the attraction of these must-have pieces. Each style is crafted in the brand’s hero colours of oak-wood brown and black with limited editions, colourways and seasonal updates.

The most famous piece is the Bayswater bag, which symbolises the label’s leather heritage with a simple and classic feminine aesthetic for the modern woman. Available in a range of colours and finishes, including ostrich and crocodile-print leather, the Bayswater is one of the most sought-after designer bags. With a classic flap, mini lock closure and robust handle, the Bayswater adds a sophisticated edge to any outfit.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Daria hobo handbag started a new trend at Mulberry with its simple yet chic style and soft pebbled-leather exterior. This relaxed piece has a laid-back 1970s vibe which pays homage to the decade the label was founded in. It also features a plaited handle and large Mulberry logo on the front. Available in oak-wood brown, black and oxblood red, this style is a classic for all seasons.

For a masculine edge, the on-trend contemporary Alexa handbag has proved popular with the younger fashion crowd and features gold buckle details and androgynous styling. Combining elements of the Bayswater with the Elkington briefcase for men, this metropolitan bag is always a stylish choice and there are seasonal updates in a variety of sizes.

The celebrity effect
Mulberry’s fashion profile has increased significantly in recent years; highlights include star-studded front rows at London Fashion Week, celebrity-inspired ranges and model-fronted campaigns. The brand’s creativity has risen to new heights and this shows no signs of stopping. When Mulberry announced its new handbag style in 2012, inspired by musician Lana Del Rey, the fashion world eagerly anticipated the arrival of this new ‘It’ bag. The Del Rey bag is the perfect mix of old-school Hollywood glamour and contemporary elements, as seen on the Alexa bag, and it sold out on the first day of release in the brand’s London New Bond Street store.

In 2013, Mulberry enlisted top British model Cara Delevingne for its enchanting autumn/winter campaign, before launching a collaborative bag collection with the star the following year. The Cara collection played to the model’s carefree and androgynous glam-grunge style with the introduction of backpacks to the Mulberry catalogue. This proved so popular with a younger audience that Mulberry worked with Delevingne on another collection of rock-chick-inspired arm candy for AW15.

Following the success of the Cara collection, Mulberry introduced model Georgia May Jagger to the team in 2015. She was the face of its new campaign and worked with Mulberry on a collaborative collection of accessories, including the ultimate biker jacket.

A new era for Mulberry
Hill’s departure from Mulberry in 2013 surprised the fashion world and the label took a step back from London Fashion Week to readjust. Now, with the success of the Alexa and Del Rey bags, fans are eagerly anticipating Mulberry’s return and a new direction. London Fashion Week AW16 is approaching and Mulberry will take to the catwalk with Spanish creative director Johnny Coca. His impressive CV spans 15 years and he has worked for the likes of Bally, Louis Vuitton and, most recently, Céline as design director for accessories and leather goods.

Mulberry is starting a new chapter with Coca at the helm and the fashion world eagerly awaits a new era for the brand. As Mulberry returns to London Fashion Week for AW16, the questions on everyone’s lips are whether the brand’s new direction will stand the test of time, and if it will remain true to its rich British heritage.



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