Archetypes of Englishness inspire the Mulberry Spring Summer ‘18 collection – Edwardiana, Ascot Ladies’ Day, garden parties, the great tradition of tea in fine bone china. Pastimes from another time, to inspire a collection for the present.
“It’s about British culture, English culture,” says Mulberry Creative Director Johnny Coca. “I’ve visited houses in England with walls of antique porcelain objects. They represent a heritage, something that you can pass down, and something for the next generation to make their own.”
Key patterns are drawn from the painted florals that adorn English china services, and the classic multi-coloured stripes of seaside deckchairs in a colour palette of faded blush, antique blue, dusty yellow and a vibrant field green. Two seemingly contradictory prints – bold geometrics and extravagant foliage – join forces under the umbrella of Mulberry’s signature take on English eccentricity.
These prints are paired with contemporary shapes – eased tailoring with narrow jackets and softly flared trousers, and wide-cut dresses collaged with elements taken from the turn of the century, such as frills and organza fabrics. There is a play with scale, with volume and with decoration. Dresses in prints and sequin embroideries are cut square to drape around the body, a reference to the sinus drapes of the 1920s and 1930s. Ruffle-sleeved blouses are combined with brief pair of shorts, and flared trousers in satin are worn with body-conscious ribbed maillot-style tops, a nod to vintage swimwear. Ruffles and pleats appear throughout as decorative motifs, adding structure, volume, movement and graphic texture to silhouettes.
Bags represent the next generation of Mulberry styles. Accessories borrow from ready-to-wear, gently edged with the collection’s gathers and frills – the Small Amberley Satchel is presented with a ruffled trim. The palette is soft, feminine, ballerina shades of bone and pale porcelain blue combined with rich and contrasting core colours like oxblood. Stripe motifs are painstakingly inlaid, like the parquet floor of a manor house, a reflection of Mulberry’s dedication to leather craft. The Rider’s Lock, reminiscent of a horse’s bit and bridle, is the key fastening – a new signature hardware debuted on the Autumn Winter ‘17 Amberley.
Jewellery migrates to bags, with bijoux faces – like found assemblages of heirloom jewels – decorating the Lynton sac styles, while other styles feature oversized acetate chains like re-proportioned necklaces. Brooches become oversized earrings with waterfalls of stones, enamelled decorations may adorn belts, and earrings are like tiny chandeliers pulled from a doll’s house, in sparkling gems and matte pearl finishes. These are pieces to be both worn, and treasured.
Low heels, fluted and rounded like china vases, offer another take on contradictions of strength and fragility. The shoe and boot styles are in soft nappa, with the ease of a ballet slipper in a rounded snub-toe, often a ruffled edging and an ankle strap. Other styles have furry trims, like boudoir slippers requisitioned for daily use.
Coca’s love for English classics, history and figures also incarnates in extravagant and witty millinery, created by Noel Stewart. Reminiscent of Ladies’ Day at Ascot, as immortalised in My Fair Lady and costumed by Sir Cecil Beaton, the hats are created from drapes of the collection’s bold prints, twisted into turbans and wide, Edwardiana ‘Merry Widow’ styles. They are a final flourish on the silhouettes, a gesture from the past reworked for today.
Mulberry has commissioned London-based ceramic artist Bouke de Vries to create a sculpture work to be displayed during the Spring Summer ‘18 presentations at 51 Avenue d’Iéna. De Vries’ reclaims broken pots, deconstructs them further and reworks them into dynamic sculptural pieces instilling new virtues, new values and moving their stories forward. It is a fitting collaboration: both Johnny Coca and Bouke de Vries share an appreciation for craft, the then reinvented with the now and a true passion for creation.
“It’s essential to make things to pass down,” says Johnny Coca. “We are always creating our own heritage.”