Finding a Thrill With Mulberry’s Hill

Mulberry's leather handbags will get a fresh jolt of color and a more feminine twist this spring...

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WWD London Preview issue 09/09/2008

Mulberry’s leather handbags will get a fresh jolt of color and a more feminine twist this spring when the British brand’s new creative director, Emma Hill, unveils her vision for the house.

This story first appeared in the September 9, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The British-born Hill — a veteran of Gap, Marc Jacobs and Chloé’s accessories divisions — joined the label in February, following Stuart Vevers’ departure for Loewe. “Mulberry is steeped in heritage, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” said Hill during a preview of her spring collection at the label’s sunny New Bond Street showroom.

To wit, her line features slouchy clutch bags in bright lipstick pink leather and roomy messenger totes in patent turquoise, which sit alongside Mulberry’s famous Roxanne and Bayswater bags in more subdued tan and black leather.

“We’re not reinventing the brand, but going back to basics,” said Hill. “It’s less about going after a new customer than offering versatility.”

She’s also produced oversize and shrunken versions of the house’s existing bags, such as a huge Mabel tote with zippered pockets and a soft clutch version of the Bayswater bag, called the Bayswater Pouch.

In addition, Hill, who served as vice president of accessories for Gap for three years until 2005, has introduced what she calls three new “families” of handbag styles to Mulberry: Jenah, a series of clutches and shoulder bags in contrasting panels of leather and suede; Mitzy, a collection of patent leather satchels and totes, and Shimmy, a structured leather tote bag with chunky metal hardware.

Hill has also channeled her production know-how into the collection, using leathers that have been skived down to make  them lighter, which means metal hardware can be added to the  bags without making them too heavy. “I can’t bear hardware that doesn’t feel real,” said Hill.

The house’s ready-to-wear collection has received a subtle update under Hill’s influence, too. She’s designed chic shift  dresses in deep pink and neon yellow, worn with soft, cropped blouson leather jackets in coral and cream.

There are also some breezy A-line day dresses in khaki Radsmeer, a man-made fiber, worn with a paper silk parka.

“I like that pairing of outerwear with a dress,” said Hill, who added that her focus on leather and outerwear in the collection was designed to tie in with the brand’s heritage as a leather company.

“It doesn’t feel false,” she said. Dresses in the rtw collection will retail for 300 pounds, or $531, while leather jackets will retail for 495 pounds, or $877.

Hill has also worked up a collection of shoes to complement Mulberry’s bags, among them, the Bayswater buckled pump, a chunky stacked-heel shoe with a round toe in colors from patent eggplant to pale tan leather.

“This shoe will continue from season to season, it feels so Mulberry,” said Hill, adding she might produce the same shoe with cone or spike heels for forthcoming seasons. “We’ll take  a heritage approach to shoes in the same way [we did for] bags.”

The footwear range also includes buckled ankle boots in patent and textured leather, and chunky-heeled Grecian sandals with straps that snake around the foot and ankle. Price points for the shoes will start at 300 pounds, or $531.

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