LONDON — Sophie Hulme built her namesake company around her elegant, accessibly priced totes and their signature geometric hardware.
But as she prepares to mark 10 years in business, she is revisiting outerwear, a category she didn’t have time to develop earlier on when the growing demand for her handbags took over the business.
“I actually trained in ready-to-wear, but when demand for the bags started going a bit crazy, I decided to focus on the bags and do one thing very well,” said Hulme, who introduced her signature structured totes seven years ago.
Having developed her own retail channels since then, including an e-commerce platform and a boutique on Marylebone’s Chiltern Street, Hulme said she now has more space to experiment with one-off projects and new categories.
Her 15-piece outerwear capsule consists of a series of classic styles, many of which reference the original shapes the designer introduced during her label’s early days. Hulme said they reflect the brand’s enduring values of offering investment leather pieces, a modernist aesthetic — and a healthy dose of humor.
There are leather biker jackets, peacoats featuring back straps made of molded leather hoops and bright color-blocked pieces with collar charms that double as pencils. To celebrate the launch and the brand’s 10th birthday, Hulme shot a campaign where 10-year-old boys and girls are standing on top of each other to make each other taller and modeling the coats.
“When you buy a coat you’re buying an investment piece that’s meant to last a long time and it can elevate a really basic outfit. So for me, outerwear and bags have far more in common than outerwear and dresses for example,” Hulme said.
The designer priced her new outerwear range in the same contemporary luxury category that made her bags so appealing.
“As a consumer, I would always save up and get a great bag at that entry-level price point that Miu Miu used to be at. But then suddenly everything went over 1,000 pounds and it felt that there was a huge gap there. I think the same applies for coats and, in that case, the gap hasn’t been filled yet,” Hulme added.
“We always invest in the leather and that’s where we compete with the big guys, because the product needs to last and look beautiful. But you can think cleverly about it; for example, when I started we didn’t line the bags and kept the design really clean, which allowed us to save on the making.”
The coats range from 695 pounds to 1,095 pounds.
Hulme has also been working to expand her handbag collection beyond her popular totes and signature hardware, adding classic bucket bags in a range of bold shades, shoulder bags with oversize straps and more playful styles, like oversize shearling totes.
“What we have proved is that there is a continuity and a recognizability across the brand styles,” said Hulme, adding that she remains focused to keeping her purist, modernist aesthetic intact across both the classic and more forward-thinking styles in her line.
She has also been moving her business from a wholesale-focused model to a direct-to-consumer one, putting more emphasis on growing her e-commerce channel and also building a new platform to support the ongoing interest the brand has been experiencing in China.
“We are now learning about the market in China and working on how to capitalize on the following we’ve built there. The great thing about working direct-to-consumer is that you can understand what works for your customer more and test things out of season,” she added.