Mulberry’s creative director Johnny Coca is one of the savviest voices in the industry today. In a world saturated with fast-moving trends, season after season he reinvigorates wardrobe classics that have longevity as well as novelty. He’s maintained Mulberry’s reputation for sellout hand-crafted leather handbags that appeal to both the Instagram generation and older brand loyalists (this season, he tapped Gen Z talent for the Iris bag launch via a Cole Sprouse-directed short film featuring Iris Law and Lucan Gillespie) and hosts consumer-facing experiences that feel simultaneously genuine and on-brand. Over the summer a series of #MyMulberryLocal gigs spotlighted London’s coolest emerging bands and paid homage to that most British of institutions: the pub.
Clothes-wise, Coca knows the Mulberry woman inside out and creates pieces that suit every aspect of her multifaceted personality. For SS20’s collection 'Irreverently Modern', this plays out through work-appropriate dresses, disco-ready sequins and weekend-friendly utilitarian pieces. As ever, Coca has cast his eye back to a decade with strong sartorial significance (for SS19, he mined the Mulberry archives for Swinging Sixties references). This time around, it's the 1980s. Think power suiting and paintbox brights – "I’m Spanish, so I’m fascinated with red, but with the blue it’s also a play on the Union Jack," he explains in his Paris showroom – plus brilliant hardwear detailing and cinched waists.
There are several standout pieces for SS20, including chunky-soled sandals we expect to see all over Instagram next summer, plus colour-blocked dresses that will look as great in the city as by the sea. Coca takes on traditional check and gives it a fresh spin through his signature bold hues – "Check is normally so muted in greys, burgundies and greens, but this is far more vibrant" – while the British staple, the trench coat, is reimagined in khaki and navy tones with silver button finishes. Just when you think you’ve seen every iteration of the classic outerwear, he adds a new flourish that makes you think you need another one in your wardrobe. Where does he draw his inspiration from?
"I’m so lucky because in the UK there are so many great subcultures right there on the street. All I have to do is look at British women – out for the evening in London, going away for a weekend in the countryside, walking down the high street. I’ll see someone carrying a patent bag and I’ll then want to experiment with shiny fabrications. I take inspiration from real people in the street and then twist it my way, bringing personal touches like print and pattern and colour."
With Brexit looming large, what does the notion of Britishness mean for a brand like Mulberry, which is so shaped by its heritage? "When I’m designing I’m thinking about the international customer, I’m bringing them the best of British style. Despite what’s happening in the UK, Britishness is still very much there – it will never leave. It’s always been there, from the Victorians to the ‘60s, via the punk decade. No matter what happens, creativity in Britain will continue." And each season, Coca will continue to be inspired. Lucky us.