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Great mix and match.

Mulberry's heritage lies in the quaint English countryside of Somerset but its contemporary incarnation is fundamentally London and fashionistas in Bahrain are being given a taste of things to come as the kingdom and the UK celebrates 200 years of diplomatic relations.

Both are British, but they're two different sides. For Summer '17, Mulberry's creative director Johnny Coca compares and contrasts different notions of Britishness - of respect, and rebellion.

Britain is a nation of uniforms - of public school and military, town and country, gentlemen and ladies of the manor. This collection draws inspiration from those uniforms of British society, but mixes and juxtaposes them, fusing them together, like two sides of the same coin.

Utility is a key notion, referencing back to Mulberry's iconic postman's lock - functional, and decorative. That notion is expressed through oak and khaki separates with a feel of Forties 'Land Girls', or ruffled pinafores and apron details. The signature stripes, characteristic of British education and Oxbridge colleges, are printed across fluid silk twills and crisp knits, in old-school, collegiate scarf colours: oxblood, navy and racing green, with brilliant shots of peregrine-beak yellow.

The movement of the Scottish kilt is transposed into swinging silk dresses. Authentic blazer wools, in patterns and colours dating back a century, are used in brief jackets and wide trousers and shorts. Their proportions are resolutely contemporary - like naughty school children tinkering with their uniforms, to find their own means of expression.

The notions of the gentleman and the lady are played out in rich textures, patterns and decoration. Paisley, like an English gentleman's robe, recurs as a decorative pattern, alongside the faded grandeur of Mitford-style baby florals in pastel hues for dresses and skirts. Ruffle details are sliced free, displaced, and animated around the body, to give these garden party classics a modern twist. A sequence of luxurious velvet is, ironically, wet-look, like debutantes caught in a decidedly English summer shower; they contrast with slick raincoats in polished patent leather.

Accessories emphasise Mulberry's love of craft, alongside Johnny Coca's rebellious streak, underlining the collections' exploration of the uniforms of British culture. Patchworks of stripes in rich, hearty school-tie colours, give a geometric pop and add texture; some are then peppered with studs, in a nod to another 'uniform' - punk.

The Cherwell bag takes inspiration from utilitarian teachers' satchels and lunch boxes, while Johnny Coca's new outsize Bayswater Piccadilly is inlaid with a college-scarf of coloured leather, an update on a new and timeless classic.

Footwear crosses the gentleman with the lady, in dandy square-toed slippers tipped with feminine ruffles. High, fluted heels are evocative of the eighteenth century, either embroidered with delicate paisley motifs fit for a duchess, or given a twisted modernity via the collection's key college colours and punk hardware.

Old meeting new, heritage colliding with modernity is another theme. The collection's jewellery draws on these themes, combining heirloom elements of classical jewellery with striking shapes and finishes, a bricolage of different eras and styles, like jewellery handed down through generations and updated by each.

Scholarly inspiration results in modernist metal jewellery that draws on Mulberry's utilitarian background. It resembles pencils, whistles or manipulated paper-clips, reworked and made precious.

A witty series of artisanal jewellery takes human hands as its form, oversized pendants and brooches resting against the body, each hand 'signing' a different phrase. Communicating a message of love and contemporary cool, this is jewellery as a study of language, a new way of expressing individuality.

"Classic, but unclassic," said Johnny Coca. "There's always a reference to British heritage, but it's about how we can use tradition, to make it feel modern. How we can break the rules, to make it new."

Uniforms, without uniformity, is the brand's slogan and a love of and a respect for the craft of making and manufacturing leather accessories has been the foundation of Mulberry's identity since 1971. Today Mulberry still manufactures in Somerset with two factories and 600 craftsmen and women.

The arrival of Coca has brought new challenges and techniques, in a dynamic collaboration between Mulberry's design team in London and the production and manufacturing of the craftspeople of the countryside. This too is a strong story, of British heritage combined with rebellious London cool.

The new accessories collection launches four new Mulberry lines, future classics for the brand. The Pembroke is a structured series of satchels, day bags and evening clutches with strict, modernist lines: its only decorations are a cut-out flap and jewellery lock, combining decoration with function.

The Cherwell draws on the collection's themes of utility, taking inspiration from lunch-boxes and teacher's bags, with an array of practical pockets overlaying the bag's surface.

The Hopton explores similar territory, its distinctive cubic design with contrast piping emphasising 3-D volume. Inside-out construction illustrates both Johnny Coca's love of technique, and the enviable know-how of the Mulberry factories.

The supple and rounded Tyndale, a soft, handheld geometric bag, drawn in through a refined leather belt or an unconventional silk scarf, is given a flash of brilliant contrast colour via a suede lining.

Every element has been considered: bags are adorned with chains that twist links from square to rounded, like a piece of jewellery, while other styles feature cutwork leather 'chain' straps. Both those, and surfaces peppered with glistening metallic studs, are emblematic of the punkish rebellion that Coca consistently uses to inject new life into Mulberry.

Mulberry's craftsmanship is evident throughout in intricate leather working: crocodile-embossing animates surfaces, college stripes are patchworked in leather in the collection's key schoolboy shades of oxblood, navy and punchy yellow. The colour range also reinvents key Mulberry styles: the Selwood is rendered in graphic striped leather; the Bayswater Piccadilly is inlaid with a college stripe of colour, an update on a new yet timeless classic.

Mulberry items are on sale at City Centre Bahrain's Saks Fifth Avenue.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 5, 2016
Words:994
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