If Mulberry looks different this season, that’s because it is. It is creative director Johnny Coca’s first outing for the brand. Following creative director Emma Hill's departure in 2013, the London-based brand, which was founded in 1971, did not appoint a replacement, Coca, until roughly two years later. The result: years without strong creative leadership and significant drops in profit – raising questions about the brand’s future. However, it seems that Coca, a former Céline design director, might be just what the brand needs to shed the gloom of its tumultuous recent past.
But it will not be easy. As we have seen with Stuart Vevers, another LVMH-brand alum and a former Mulberry creative director, who has been charged with revamping struggling American accessories brand, Coach, retraining consumers when it comes to a brand’s image is no easy feat. Vevers joined Coach in 2013 following stints at Calvin Klein, Bottega Veneta, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton where he worked with Marc Jacobs, Mulberry, and then Loewe. He has faced an uphill battle, attempting to lure consumers back to Coach following its massive expansion and market saturation, and subsequent crash. But as recent profit reports indicate, such a turnaround is do-able, it just takes quite a bit of talent and time; Coach certainly isn’t out of the rough just yet.
Coca seems to be a similar predicament, given Mulberry’s fall from grace in recent years. As the New York Times’ Elizabeth Paton noted this week, “Mulberry is in the midst of one of the biggest turnaround efforts in British fashion history. Mr. Coca’s first mainline collection, to be unveiled Sunday at London Fashion Week, is also the brand’s first major show in 30 months, after facing a share-price collapse and a string of unfashionable profit warnings.”
While it is somewhat unclear at the moment just how much of a hand Coca will have in the garments themselves, what we do know for sure is this: having been behind some of the most coveted accessories at Celine in the recent past, Mulberry will be the source of some of the most exciting handbags of the moment. So, be sure to keep your eye on them!