Launched in 2003, the Bayswater bag, with its utilitarian, business-like appeal was credited with turning around Mulberry’s financial fortunes. In 2004, the group posted a pre-tax profit of £41,000, against losses of £2.3m the previous year, and the bag went on to become one of the British brand’s core assets, despite the financial woes which saw its profits plummeting under its subsequent chief executive Bruno Guillon.
Now, the bag has offered a creative opportunity for Mulberry’s new creative director Johnny Coca. The Spanish-born 40-year-old arrived at the house 10 months ago, and his first runway collection, unveiled in February, was punky, young and studded with lots of new, acid-bright accessories. But alongside these, he’s also got designs on the archive. And next week will see the launch of the Bayswater 2016 — Coca’s reworking of the house classic.
So how did he improve it? “I was looking at the leather, I said, ‘this is nice leather, but I can do better’. In terms of construction, I knew I could do better. In terms of weight, better,” he says, from his studio in Paris.
Coca’s Bayswater is a sleeker and chicer model. The heavy metal hardware has been pared down — the padlock fob and metal feet are gone and the postman’s lock-plate smaller. The distinctive tree logo has been replaced with embossed gold lettering spelling out the company name in an archive script from the 1970s. The bag has become more structured, and given a reinforced lining strong enough to carry laptops and tablets without altering its shape. “It’s very practical,” says Coca. “You have to adapt the design around women’s lifestyles today. Women are different: younger, older, working. They have a different attitude to 10 years ago and it was really important to adapt that bag for modern life.” iPhone pockets have also been added.
Coca has introduced fresh new colours: canary yellow and candy pink will sit alongside the classic burgundy, black and clay. He’s also played with the existing shades — the traditional oak hue is now much deeper and richer than before.
He’s confident and controlled in his vision for Mulberry. “I want to push the boundaries and give a more modern feel for the brand, but keeping all the DNA and authenticity,” he says. “I’m not here to completely change it. It’s really important to respect where it comes from.” Keen to not alienate the traditional customer, Coca’s Bayswater will sit alongside the existing style, and both will retail for £895 (a new, smaller version will also be available for £795). Coca has been mindful of price in this redesign: some of Mulberry’s recent problems were attributed to the decision to reposition the brand, subsequently driving up accessories prices, and the company are now focused on creating bags within the £500-£900 bracket.
“Sometimes people say ‘you know what, I’m going to redesign’, and the price is double. It’s not right. If you’re a good designer and you know what you’re doing, you don’t have to,” he says. “It is important for Mulberry to be honest about what we create, the quality and the price. We are not a brand that says we want to make masses of money.” Then again, he’s deadly serious about his ambitions. “I’m not here just to play,” he concludes. “I’m here to make a success.”