Wool coat and cotton shirt. Print organza shirt and skirt, Mulberry.
Photo Lonneke van der Palen, réalisation Sophie Houdré
With his half-rocker, half-pirate style, Spaniard Johnny Coca has set out on an ambitious mission: reinventing the institution that is Mulberry with an emphasis on its British essence. And, since his much commented first runway show at the autumn/winter 2016 London fashion week, he seems well on the way to achieving his goal. “I started in July 2015,” he explains, “and right away I noticed the strength of the brand, which occupies a special place in England’s heart. Buying a Mulberry bag is a rite of passage for young British women, who’ve seen the royal family appearing with various Mulberry models. During my first visit to our Somerset factories, staff there told me that they’d saved for a long time to buy their first Mulberry bag.”
Former art director of accessories at Céline, Coca is quite obviously an expert in it-bag design. At Mulberry, he begn by discussing technique and savoir-faire. “I gave the factories bag designs to see how they’d be interpreted. I wanted to find out how we could understand each other, pool our knowledge and find a new balance together.” The iconic Bayswater, first launched in 2003, has undergone a subtle facelift so as to give it a more contemporary feel. “It’s such an emblematic bag for the brand, I found it fitted the image per- fectly, and I wanted to keep it,” Coca explains. “I wanted to treat it with a more structured hand, and I light- ened it slightly.” Following on from this first move, the designer recently launched a new model, the Maple, a stiff tote that sets the tone for the Johnny Coca era.
But in addition to accessories, Coca has been turning his attention to the whole spectrum of his role as creative director, and even rede- signed the brand logo. “Our factories have a repair shop where clients can bring their cherished bags to be mended. I was struck by the logo on the vintage bags, and wanted to come back to its lower-case font, which allows you to understand in- stantly the English identity of Mulberry. I merged it with the letter- ing of London street signs, and added the word ‘England’ which used to appear.” And it’s with evident pleasure that Coca is tackling every aspect of Mulberry to shape it as a contemporary lifestyle brand. Trying his had at prêt-à-porter for the first time, he’s been playing with English genres: inspired by bikers, rockers, Victoriana, Romanticism and florals, that unique British mix of tradition and rebellion, he’s designed a complete and eclectic wardrobe. Impeccable felt coats contrast with school-uniform pleated skirts; chic colours like Bordeaux, black, navy blue and khaki are dressed up with studs and other metal detailing; del- icate floral motifs float over imposing shoes with massive soles. It’s a first collection which proves that English culture has lost none of its spice, and that the Queen has no need of God just yet to save her.
By Delphine Roche.