LONDON (Reuters) - Much is riding on a debut collection from new creative director Johnny Coca for British fashion brand Mulberry which will be unveiled on Sunday, with shoppers able to buy some of the products within weeks in a nod to changing consumer trends.
Mulberry is trying to reconnect with its roots as an upmarket British brand offering sturdy and chic handbags after an ill-fated push into higher-priced products led to a string of profit warnings and the dismissal of the former executive and creative teams.
Its first show after two turbulent years comes as fashion brands are trying to find ways of getting clothing and accessories to customers more quickly in different climates around the world.
Burberry and Tom Ford said this month they would stage just two fashion shows a year that would feature both menswear and womenswear collections — rather than running four shows linked to the seasons.
The move is aimed at tapping into a “see now, buy now” generation of consumers keen to purchase things straight off the runway via mobile devices.
Luxury fashion labels are firing back at fast-fashion rivals such as Inditex’s Zara which put out clothes inspired by luxury designers before their own more costly collections hit the shelves and without the expense of celebrity creative directors and fashion shows.
“The client comes into your shop and says I have seen this already and for less money,” Mulberry Chief Executive Thierry Andretta told Reuters.
“I think all the brands will be thinking about it,” he added. “(Burberry CEO) Christopher Bailey’s announcement will impact people’s thinking. But every brand will find its own solution.”
Andretta, a fashion veteran who used to run Lanvin and LVMH’s Celine, was hired last year to revive Mulberry.
His strategy is to position it as a quintessential British brand that makes products offering value for money — responding to consumers’ growing criticism of disposable fashion.
Andretta plans to stress that the brand has dozens of craftsmen available to repair bags, a service only a few luxury labels offer such as Hermes and LVMH’s Louis Vuitton.
Around half of Mulberry’s products are made in Somerset by some 600 skilled workers, he notes. The rest are made elsewhere in Europe.
Andretta helped Mulberry hire Spanish-born designer Coca, ex-Louis Vuitton and Celine, whose new collection on Sunday is set to be a talking point of London Fashion Week.
Mulberry, known for its classic brown leather bags with locks inspired by a postman’s satchel, was founded in 1971 in Somerset, southwest England.
The brand is named after the tree which founder Roger Saul walked past each day in the grounds of his school. Today, it is 56-percent owned by Singapore billionaires Christina Ong and Ong Beng Seng.
High-end luxury leather goods makers such as Mulberry face fierce competition from more accessible brands such as Furla, Longchamp and Kate Spade, that give customers the look and feel of luxury at a fraction of the price.
Mulberry lost many customers when former boss Bruno Guillon, who came from Hermes, increased the focus on higher priced bags costing as much as 1,800 pounds ($2,575), more than double Mulberry’s core price range.
Now more than 70 percent of Mulberry’s bags are priced under 1,000 pounds, Andretta said. The mini Lily bag in natural leather costs 350 pounds while bigger versions cost 650 pounds while the best-selling Bayswater sells at 895 pounds.
Writing by Astrid Wendlandt; Editing by Keith Weir