MULBERRY COMPANY





British fashion and accessory firm

Founded: by Roger Saul and his mother, Joan, to produce leather accessories, 1971. Company History: Opened factory, Chilcompton, Bath, England, and set up wholesale operation in Australia, 1973; Mulberry Ltd. formed, 1974; London and New York showrooms open, and clothing line introduced, 1976; three-year contract signed with Sisheido, Japan, and first women's ready-to-wear clothing collection introduced, 1978; freestanding shop opened in Paris, and first men's shoe collection, 1982; men's ready-to-wear collection introduced, 1985; launched men's toiletry range, 1989; added home furnishings, 1991; Mulberry shops opened in Tamagawa and Hankyu Osaka, Japan, 1991, and in Russia, 1992; first edition Muberry Life magazine, 1993; public offering marks 25th anniversary, 1996; Madison Avenue, New York, store opens, 1997; marketing gambit with Motorola, 1999; operated stores in 21 countries, 2000. Awards: Queen's award to Industry and Export, 1979; Queen's award for Export, 1987, 1989; British Knitting and Clothing Export Council award, 1988, 1991; Business in Europe "Best Consumer Company" award, 1989; Classic Designer of the Year, 1992, 1993. Company Address: 11-12 Gees Court, St Christopher's Place, London W1M 5HQ, England.

P UBLICATIONS

By MULBERRY:

Books

Mulberry at Home: A New Approach to Luxurious Country Style, London, 1999.

On MULBERRY:

Articles

"Business in Europe Awards, 1989," in Management Today, May 1989.

McDougall, Mary, "Rich and Romantic," in Connoisseur (London), March 1991.

"Fashion into Furniture," in Elle Decoration (London), September/October 1991.

"English Clothier Mulberry Plans Expansion into U.S.," in Chicago Tribune, 17 March 1996.

Menkes, Suzy, "It's Their Party…Mulberry at 25, Redefines the English Country Look," in the International Herald Tribune, 21 May 1996.

***

Mulberry was founded in 1971 by Roger Saul through a gift of 50-pounds sterling from his mother Joan. Roger began by selling his own designs for leather chokers and belts to such high fashion shops as Biba in London. His first collection of belts in suede and leather demonstrated the influence of saddlery techniques and traditional English crafts, and were worked to Saul's designs by local craftsmen housed in what was once an old forge in his parent's garden in Chilcompton, near Bath. The following year Saul made Mulberry's first significant export—an order of a thousand belts from the Paris department store Au Printemps, while Saul created a subsequent belt collection for Jean Muir. By 1975 Mulberry had expanded into Europe, with handbag designs for Kenzo in Paris and a special range for Bloomingdale's in New York.

The definitive English "hunting, shooting and fishing" look which is the hallmark of Mulberry's style was enhanced in 1976 by an expansion from accessories to clothes, with the first jacket design. Consisting of a cotton blouson with a leather collar, the distinctive Mulberry jacket was a worldwide success. The first women's ready-to-wear collection followed in 1978, and within a decade Mulberry was the largest manufacturer of designer quality leather accessories in Britain, with exports, including those to the United States, accounting for the majority of its production. Unfortunately, Mulberry's success in the U.S. market was shortlived, as the dollar drastically lost its value against the pound. Yet Mulberry rallied and was sustained by its European growth, were the company's tree logo was an established status symbol.

The end of the 1980s brought the Queen's award for Export in both 1987 and 1989 and by 1991 a new At Home collection of home furnishings was launched at Harvey Nichols, in Knightsbridge, London. Soon after, two shops opened in Japan, followed by stores in Russia, Italy, Chile, and South Africa. Mulberry continued to win awards and gain exposure, including the opening of another shop in London, on Bond Street.

In the late 1990s, Mulberry ventured back into the U.S. with renewed vigor, and toyed with a public offering on London's Alternative Investment Market to celebrate its 25th anniversary. By the end of the 20th century the English country elegance of Mulberry was increasingly well known, with a savvy marketing deal with Motorola (buy a phone, get a Mulberry leather wallet) and Saul writing a coffee-table book about the company's home furnishings. Mulberry at Home: A New Approach to Luxurious Country Style was published in 1999 and was enthusiastically received. With Mulberry stores in 21 countries worldwide, what Roger Saul characterized as the "spirit of Mulberry, with its witty English nostalgia, amusing eccentricity and uncompromising devotion to quality," had become synonymous with refined elegance in clothing, accessories, and home furnishings. As Saul so aptly put it, Mulberry has come to represent "a romantic but robust lifestyle."

—Doreen Ehrlich;

updated by Nelly Rhodes

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