Lana Del Ray, Mulberry CEO Bruno Guillon and Emma Hill At Mulberry Store Opening
SINGAPORE - "Well, I'm going to say, 'Thank you very much, Your Majesty!'" chortled Emma Hill, her laughter ringing in the Presidential Suite of the Four Seasons hotel. "I think I'd be very nervous."
The creative director of Mulberry was talking about receiving her Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) personally from the Queen next month, conferred for "serving the British fashion industry".
Hill's service extends to more than just Brit fashion. That satchel bag everyone is toting - that's Hill's doing. The former accessory designer of Marc Jacobs joined Mulberry in 2007 and elevated the humble satchel into a hipster must-have by creating the Alexa in 2009. Under her leadership, Mulberry bags have become hot items for celebs - from A-listers like Keira Knightley to umm, Kim Kardashian.
Hill was in town to officially open the Asian flagship at Mandarin Gallery, and there are plans to open new stores in Shanghai and Japan. On top of that, she revealed she's deliberately and steadily expanding Mulberry's ready-to-wear range as she introduced key looks of Mulberry's Spring/Summer 2013 Collection during a meeting with the press.
"I feel you can't be a true brand until you do all sides of it. I want to give customers a full breath of what Mulberry can offer," she explained. But she's not about to launch a men's ready-to-wear collection. Not just yet.
"I'm a wee bit busy at the moment," she quipped.
Why did you decide to open the Asian flagship store in Singapore?
Emma Hill: Happily being busy at the moment.
Emma Hill: Obviously our relationship with Club 21 is a key factor. And the style here feels really good with Mulberry. It's very exciting that it's the first store in Singapore to have ready-to-wear. We're trying to expand in Asia but we're also expanding in America. We just opened in San Francisco, we're opening in Washington and we've opened a flagship in New York last year. What's interesting about Mulberry is that in the number of international stores, we're still quite a baby. This is quite an exciting time, really. I think our commitment to British-made products will go down well internationally, especially in Asia. We're opening a second factory in Somerset called The Willows. We're going to open more (factories). People are really looking for quality and made-in-England has a huge amount of cache.
You've raised Mulberry's profile significantly since you joined. What would you say have been the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge is bringing the brand together. We were known pretty much for only our bags, so it's growing the ready-to-wear. When we first started, we didn't show at London Fashion Week so it was kinda a big leap to get people to accept our ready-to-wear stuff. As we've grown enormously in the last four years, that's been a challenge as how do you grow that big and maintain the eye on the ball. I'm kinda doing everything. I do the make-up, the hair-I don't physically do it, but I pick the looks, I pick the soundtrack, I do the colour palette, although I have amazing teams that I work with. I look at even ridiculous things like the sandwiches for today. It was served in brown bread but traditionally in England, if you have a cucumber sandwich, you only serve with white bread so I asked if it could be changed to white bread. I know, I'm a crazy person. This is the level of detail that I'm looking at.
And what do you look for when choosing which celeb to create a bag for?
That they've done something to pique my interest, to make them feel that they are very Mulberry. For Alexa Chung, she is amazing but she's been around for a long time before we did the Alexa bag. It was that one thing she did when she carried a Mulberry men's bag with her party dress. With Lana, it was her original Video Games music video she did which she had to change because of the legal issues. She put together things the same way I put together a mood board. She had a real high-low thing, mixing old Hollywood glamour with cartoons like Road Runner. We collaborate with our friends for a long time. We're not into the idea of having a different girl each season.
Why do you think women are so obsessed with handbags?
I don't know. It's bonkers, isn't it? Women and their bags and shoes. You can elevate any outfit with great shoes and bags. Whether you're a big girl or small girl, a great bag is a great bag. And women just have an amazing relationship with their handbags. You carry with you every day. In England, girls dance around their handbags, they put them on the floor at clubs and they dance around it. Boys are taught at a very early age they can't go into their mothers' handbags. It's a very personal thing, the handbag.
Is there one Mulberry bag you find yourself going back to?
Oh, everyone wants the answer to that! I've been carrying the Willow around the world recently. I use the Alexa and Del Rey a lot too. Oh my Maisie, poor Maisie is at home. It's too hard to choose.