When Johnny Coca presents his first full runway collection for Mulberry next February, it will be two and half years since Emma Hill’s still-mystifying adieu. The interim has at best been a purgatory and at worst left this fine firm looking as battered as a Bayswater bag that has been too loved for too long.
The new man arrives soon, but apparently too late to assume full authorship of Spring 2016—although he will be master of its imagery. In a way this Resort collection was a prefiguring of the cleanish slate that Mulberry’s existing team hopes to present him with. That team has been marshaled by Mathilde Mader, design collection manager, who, along with three colleagues, ran through this last Coca-less proposition today.
While hobbled by the lack of license to define an imprimatur of their own, Mader and co. have sketched a solidly sellable holding pattern. Hill’s good-time, uptown (but might-wake-up-downtown) raucousness has been put away, presumably under direction. Mulberry has gone lady, and pretty pleasantly so.
The zigzag opening was inspired by the work of artist Marlow Moss—a neglected, jodhpur-wearing, school-of-Mondrian, St. Ives modernist who is well worth a Google—as well as the silhouettes of beach huts. The pajama-piped crepe de chine separates, slouchy oversize-collar Aran, deck-chair-striped Bermudas, and duffel-touched cashmere parka were soft whispers of the Cornish Riviera. The pink sash-stripe on the fine-gauge orange knit referred back to pictures of 1920s tennis parties, while the wide collar on that striking green blouse was pure austerity-era schoolboy. The designers put a bird on it via a pretty-enough print. Although not in this lookbook, there were some fine rope-strap shoes with rubber-tip heels of turned wood, burnished as richly as any deck in Salcombe Bay. And Laura Thompson, senior accessories designer, produced a good-looking, squarish-bottom bucket tote named the Kite that has a clever and versatile strap arrangement and half crumples most winningly in a black croc print.
Mader and the team are playing it somewhat safe, understandably so. Mulberry is in quiet recovery after its dangerously overambitious, management-led push to set prices far too high. That, more so than the dismissal of Hill, shook the Rookery. To emphasize that those dark days are over, the company provided a price list. Steer clear of the neon yellow ostrich and that Kite could fly.