LONDON — Something old, something new: It’s not just wardrobe advice for brides-to-be, but a new philosophy for fashion and luxury brands that are working toward a circular economy.
Not only are these brands teaming with resale companies or flash sales sites such as Vente Privée, they’re also urging consumers to treasure their old items, have them repaired and continue using them — even if that means buying fewer new things.
Since its founding in 1971, Mulberry has offered a lifetime restoration service for its bags and accessories, kept a dedicated team of 10 to 15 artisans on site at its Somerset factories, and hung onto spare parts and leather stocks in order to repair bags and accessories, no matter how large or small.
Pricing for those repairs starts at 30 pounds and goes up to 300 pounds for a full restoration. Customers can send items to its Somerset Repairs Centre after completing an online form, or they can go into any Mulberry stores or concessions for an assessment.
The company has never shouted about that policy, but it’s all about to change on Feb. 14, the first day of London Fashion Week, when Mulberry plans to stage its Made to Last event in London and The Mulberry Exchange, a repair and swap service that will be rolled out in the U.K. and the U.S.
An announcement is expected today.
For the three-day Made to Last event, Mulberry’s carbon-neutral Somerset factories will be “transported” to the Bond Street store, where customers will be able to watch Mulberry craftspeople create the recently launched, 100 percent sustainable leather Portobello Tote in a choice of limited-edition colors.
A mixed-media installation will showcase the brand’s commitment to crafting “responsible luxury,” while a series of industry talks will kick off with creative director Johnny Coca. The store also plans to host live music and house a café by the cult East London bakery Pophams. Customers will get the chance to make their own Mulberry piece during craft workshops.
In this spirit of sustainability, the Bond Street installation has been designed with everything from reusable set pieces to sustainable coffee cups.
During the event, the brand will also launch a circular economy program known as The Mulberry Exchange. Customers will be able to have their Mulberry bags authenticated and appraised, with the chance to swap their old merchandise for credit toward a new purchase.
A curated selection of pre-restored bags donated by some of brand’s most high-profile fans will be available during London Fashion weekend.
Other pre-loved and archive pieces will be for sale at the Bond Street and Gees Court stores in London, with a focus on rare silhouettes and limited-edition pieces, restored by Mulberry’s artisans in Somerset.
Prices are determined on a product-by-product basis, taking into consideration the original value and the original selling price. Each item sold in Bond Street, Gees Court and Spring Street New York will be unique, Mulberry said, and the pricing will reflect this.
Thierry Andretta, chief executive officer, said the planned events underline Mulberry’s “360-degree” approach to sustainability, from going carbon-neutral in the U.K., to becoming part of the Better Cotton Initiative, to working with recyclable nylon and recycled thread, to pursuing zero waste to landfill certification, to extending the life of vintage or pre-used products.
He said the new initiatives also highlight “decades of artisan skills nurtured in our Somerset factories, and embrace the principles of a circular economy. We’re proud to offer our customers the chance to give a pre-loved bag a second life and purchase timeless designs from Mulberry’s archive.”
The Mulberry Exchange service will be rolled out to the brand’s store at 134 Spring Street in New York, while the company plans to take the service online in the future.
Asked during an interview whether Mulberry’s embrace of old products, and eagerness to repair used items, would erode future sales growth — and margins — Andretta said absolutely not.
He said Mulberry’s efforts will lay the groundwork for a whole new generation of consumers, a generation that is keen to do something for the planet and to fuel a circular economy.
He added that Mulberry wants to do business in the most responsible way possible, and that stretching the life cycle of products is “not a limiting factor” in growing the business. It’s simply part of the brand’s service offer.
“No matter how old your bag is — to us, you are still our customer. We don’t even mind where you bought the products because we can authenticate them ourselves. This is something we have always done,” he said.
During the event next week, Mulberry also plans to showcase the new M Collection, a new capsule of bags and outerwear crafted from a blend of Econyl-branded regenerated nylon and sustainable cotton.
Mulberry has said it is committed to ensuring the price for responsible sourcing and production is not passed on to the consumer. Prices for M Collection range from 115 pounds to 995 pounds.
Coca said the brand’s repeating M initial has been interlocked in a play on Brutalist architecture and heritage textiles, such as houndstooth “to create an urban, abstracted pattern that draws on our shared spaces and histories.”