Three questions for… Johnny Coca, creative director at Mulberry
An encounter with Johnny Coca, a newcomer that no one can ignore.
At London Fashion Week, the Mulberry show was nothing short of sensational. The return to the runway of this English label, deprived of an artistic director since the departure of Emma Hill in 2013, was hotly anticipated. A radical change was required after the charming if a little watered down offerings that marked the final years of the previous designer’s tenure at the house. In 2015 Mulberry announced the appointment of Johnny Coca, a Spaniard with a rocker’s look, an air of Marc Jacobs and a penchant for black kilts. The former director of accessories at Céline - where he notably created the Trapèze ‘it’ bag - and graduate of the Beaux-Arts de Paris and the École Boulle is now facing a sizable challenge. In the role of creative director, the ex-handbag prodigy today supervises the House of Mulberry on every level, from the ready-to-wear and visual communications to the accessories and boutique interiors.
The challenge has in part already been met with the success of his first show that oozed an elegant rock attitude. On the runway the impeccably cut felt coats contrasted with subtly pleated skirts and dresses, hijacking English school uniforms, showcasing an autumnal palette of burgundy, black, navy and military khaki, finished with studs and other metallic detailing. The creative director also introduced a new line of handbags whose two leading designs, the Clifton and the Chester, swathed in gold studs, are already available for pre-ordering.
Numéro: In the space of one show you’ve completely changed the image of Mulberry. What was your guiding force?
Johnny Coca: The British public is very attached to Mulberry, but I wanted to amplify its international aura by working on its identity, so it would be more readable and stronger. As soon as I took office I changed the Mulberry logo [the sober inscription ‘Mulberry England’ has replaced the former tree signature]. Then I conceived my show in a way that presented Mulberry as an English brand with very distinct attitudes.
You’re Spanish, and you’ve lived and worked in Paris. What exactly does English culture represent for you?
English culture is rich with references that have made an impression on our era, and that still seduces today in a universal way. We all love bikers, we all love rock… This culture provides a broad fashion vocabulary that everyone might like to play with. Here there’s a unique mix of tradition and modernity, a respect for the past and a sense of rebellion. I’m trying to take this contrasting element and make it more international.
With a background in accessories, how do you approach ready-to-wear?
For me, there are no fundamental differences between them once you decide you love working as a designer. I also adore cars, jewellery… When it’s about the building of a house or the drawing of a ready-to-wear collection, the moment you love beauty, you try and re-transcribe it and sublimate it, no matter what the support.
Interview by Delphine Roche.
Johnny Coca seen by David Bailey.