Mulberry A/W 2017

I might catch some flack for this, but if you like the large Mulberry duvet ponchos seen in today’s collection, I can save you a lot of money right now by teaching you how to make your own. It’s really quite simple.

First, drop by your local do-it-yourself moving company and purchase a couple of old quilted moving blankets. They don’t have to be in great shape, just preferably something that doesn’t smell like urine and still has most its padding. Don’t get the really big ones. Something that measures about a meter in length and around 2/3 a meter in width should do nicely.

Second, unless you really like that shabby chic look, you want to cover both sides of both pads. I suggest using a fabric that weathers well, but Mulberry creative director Johnny Coca seems to think silk works, too. The choice is totally up to you and what you think best compliments your personal aesthetic.

Third, quilt your new cover onto the pads. Mulberry just machine quilts straight lines, but if you’re adventurous and really creative, you might use variegated threads and in-the-ditch stitching for an even stronger quilt and more creative pattern.

In the Fourth step, you need to add four loops to the top of what will be the back pad, and four large buttons to the top of the front pad. My personal preference here is for large brass buttons, but again, this is your coat so choose something that suits you.

Now, if you’re not familiar with button-holing, this Fifth step could get tricky. You need to create a set of vertical button holes on the front pad that will run on either side of your body, from just under your arms to near the bottom of the pad. My suggestion is that you lie down on the pad and try to not fall asleep while someone who doesn’t giggle too much marks where the button holes should go.

Once you’ve finished creating the button holes, then you can sew buttons at corresponding intervals to the inside of the back pad. Viola! You’re done and just saved yourself a couple thousand dollars plus shipping! Your new coat should look something like this:

The scarf at the top is optional, but is definitely a nice touch.

This is what I took away from the Mulberry presentation this afternoon. Mind you, there were many other absolutely wonderful pieces of clothing on display, but the repeated silhouette of this duvet poncho completely overwhelmed everything else. The best it looked was in black, but what sealed it as the primary silhouette of the collection was when Coca decided to make the violet floral print version his final piece.

That one look could make or break the already-fragile Mulberry attempt at recovery. It’s been a year now since Coca presented his first collection for the house and the job can’t be easy. Mulberry has been on the rocks since 2013 and trying to get back into a positive operating position while the luxury retail sector is taking a cumulative nose dive has been unquestionably stressful. Every piece that comes down a Mulberry runway counts.

Many of the pieces, especially those toward the front of the collection, are actually quite wonderful. When Coca started off with a couple of heritage-based looks, I thought he might really be onto something good. This is the kind of look that sells especially well in London, even with the oversized bow. This is exactly what the Mulberry faithful like to see.

Coca is smart in using checks throughout the first half of the collection. The aesthetic is sharp, perfect for the season, and even manages to look contemporary when he overlays a suit with white lace. These are the pieces that could help get former Mulberry shoppers back into the stores.

One does well to note that almost everything in this collection runs a little large, a look that is intentional. Coats hang off shoulders. Bodices are full. Skirts have a little more fabric to them and run just a tad longer than one might expect. This is a comfort look, the kind of feeling one gets from playing dress-up in your parents’ clothes when you were a child. So the sleeves are too long. We’re okay with that. We’ve been okay with that for the past four seasons. We don’t mind the oversized look and so Coca uses that to his advantage to create some very attractive silhouettes, such as this one:

Do please notice that the floral pattern is embroidery and applique, not a print. These are luscious pieces that one expects from a luxury atelier. The looks are familiar enough to not be frightening and still new enough to not feel like one is wearing leftovers.

In addition to the embroidery, Coca extends his handcraft work into a set of duo-toned crocheted dresses. While I’m not sure they’ll do well for wintering in London, they could be perfect if one is lucky enough to holiday in the South of France or somewhere similar.

And I would be remiss if I failed to mention the exquisite work Coca does with pleated printed silk. Yes, there’s a definite Asian influence in the silhouette, but he varies it enough to work with European aesthetics, avoiding the charge of cultural misappropriation.

Yet, he keeps coming back, time and time again, to those duvet ponchos. I know some people like them. These would be the same people who try wearing their pajamas to work and convince their boss it’s the new style for business suits. A couple of years ago, the same people were simply wrapping the duvet around them and tying it off. The look didn’t pass muster then and this isn’t enough of an improvement to pass muster now.

Coca has to take some risks if Mulberry’s going to grow and get back on stable footing. I get that. The poncho was a risk that isn’t likely to work out. It’s too bulky, to awkward, and fits no one’s body well. The question now is how many more seasons can Mulberry let Coca take risks like this?

We’ll watch carefully.

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