Mulberry

Amber Jane Butchart

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA045

Luxury leather brand Mulberry was founded in England in 1971, established by Roger Saul in Somerset. Their flagship factory in Chilcompton, called the Rookery, remains Mulberry’s manufacturing base in the UK. The brand is continually inspired by English country pursuits, as laid out in the 1975–1976 “Hunting, Shooting, Fishing” collection, which has played a large part in the marketing of Mulberry as a heritage brand with a “quintessentially English” aesthetic. Early Mulberry designs were stocked by the iconic boutique Biba.

By the late 1980s, domestic and export business was booming. In 1989 Mulberry Europe was formed to develop and launch new retail destinations in key cities throughout Europe, then in Japan. In 1991 Mulberry Home was launched, followed in 1994 by the “All Weather” collection. In 1996 the company was floated on the stock exchange. In 2003 Roger Saul was ousted in a boardroom coup headed by billionaire hotelier and major shareholder Christina Ong.

From the turn of the millennium, a number of canny creative appointments and collaborations have seen the brand remain relevant for new generations. Luella Bartley, in a one-off collaboration, designed the “Gisele” bag for Mulberry in 2001, leading to a succession of “It bag” designs over the following years. In 2002 Nicholas Knightly was appointed creative director; Stuart Vevers took over in 2004, a position he held until 2007 when he left to head up Loewe. During his tenure, Vevers designed popular bags such as the “Bayswater” and “Emmy.” Giles Deacon embarked on a two-season collaboration in 2007, and the following year Emma Hill was appointed creative director. Accessories designer Kim Jones is another collaborator.

Emma Hill was at the helm as the company grew into an international luxury brand, with “It bag” designs such as the “Alexa,” “Daria,” “Lily,” “Del Rey,” and the “Willow” reaching cult status. She also oversaw women’s wear collections shown during London Fashion Week. In 2012 it was announced that Hill would be made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In June 2013, Emma Hill decided to leave Mulberry.

Mulberry has been running an apprenticeship program since 2006 at the Rookery to develop the craft skills of a new generation of accomplished artisans. The training course lasts for eighteen months and is run in conjunction with Bridgwater College.

Mulberry, Autumn/Winter 1997 Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Misiura Shashi. Heritage Marketing . Oxford : Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006.