Creative Director Johnny Coca takes a hard look at soft styles from slender dresses with plunge fronts to bags soft and strapped
Last season’s Mulberry show was at Guildhall in the City, with all the bells, religious relics and nobility of old London. For Spring/Summer 2017, designer Johnny Coca offered a different experience, as he took over a printworks in the gritty Docklands area south of the capital, where the setting was a bare concrete floor.
“The venue was interesting as a concept, because everything was in line: the boy blazers and print machines — there were interesting contrasts,” Johnny explained.
Interesting too was the focus Coca put on details, as square, open, window-like spaces down the length of the runway helped put a visual focus on bags large and squishy or smaller and square, with dangling straps to emphasise their ergonomic qualities.
The striped blazer, as worn at Oxford and Cambridge boating regattas since way back when, was a key Mulberry item, its vertical lines appearing on jackets or as decorative vertical patterns on skirts and dresses. That worked well with the concept of a printing press and also gave a strictness both to tailoring and more fluid, softer dresses. For a summer season, the colours were business like, including khaki, wine red and bright navy.
But this was not an old-school collection; rather, a series of practical outfits, some shiny like plastic, perhaps to fend off British rain. Plunging V-necks were another way that Coca played out the man/woman story.
It is smart of the designer to think of clothes for work, although blazers themselves belong so much to a British past of class and privilege that it is hard to imagine their revival in a multi-cultural world — and certainly not on the campuses of Oxford and Cambridge today. But the war time Land Girls also came into Coca’s overall vision of England, which is important in giving Mulberry a sense of place, even as an international brand.
“To me, what is interesting is the contrast of the countryside and baby flowers mixing with more urban areas, and what it’s like looking outside, coming from London, at all these people who go to Oxford and want to look cool,” the designer said. “They might still have their mother’s blazer from when she was young, so they think, ‘How I can play with it? Modernise it?’ It’s a recycling of things you love instinctively — and it’s interesting, the relationship you have with the clothes you love.”